Not So Churchy receives frequent requests to speak with individuals who are interested in starting or studying new worshiping communities like our own. Below are answers to questions that we frequently receive. Considering our very limited staffing, we are sorry that we cannot accommodate requests for conversation with our pastor or our parishioners, but hope that these FAQs might prove to be helpful as the Spirit works among you. And everyone is always welcome to worship with us!
Why do you worship only once a month? How do you build community this way?
We have intentionally made the decision to gather in worship once a month for several reasons. We put a great deal of energy into each individual service; we have between three and four musicians who compose most of the music for each evening. In addition, we find that in the fast-paced city we live in, most of our folks cannot commit to much more than a monthly worship gathering. We have read that average attendance is only once a month for most churches--so we figure why not put our energy and focus into an excellent monthly gathering. Our pastor is also employed on a ⅓ time basis and she could not organize weekly services in addition to providing pastoral care and organizing fellowship, educational and service opportunities in between.
We have found that monthly worship gatherings are sufficient for the community. We see each other throughout the month in other ways, through educational and prayer groups, service opportunities, community meetings and online. We also have a private Facebook group and Slack channel that keeps us connected.
Why do you worship on Monday nights in particular?
We began to worship on Monday nights because that is when the theatre is dark in New York City. We wanted to make sure we are accessible to people who work in the theatre and music scene.
What does worship look like?
We begin with a song to indicate the beginning of our gathering. Then our pastor, Mieke, leads announcements. This leads us into meditative music that helps to quiet our brains and hearts. We sing some more and then the scripture for the night is interpreted by our musical team for the evening. After this, Mieke preaches and then invites people to share any thoughts with the community. Our musicians reflect on the reading through more music, at times inviting us to sing or move together. We then move into the offering of financial gifts as well as of our prayers. Finally we share in a sung Eucharist (which means Thanksgiving), the words of which are set but the music is improvised by Mieke, the musicians and the congregation. Finally we end with a brief prayer and then the passing of the peace.
Is this a gay church?
Yes, and no. We find ourselves with about half of our core group identifying as LGBTQ and half as straight. That said, we are all a little queer.
Are kids welcome?
Absolutely! We have several children who have been part of our gathered community since the beginning. We provide legos and coloring books for kids to play with (and adults who want to as well). Our children lead in us in song and worship from time to time and often respond in the space created after the sermon to share insights.
How do you organize yourself?
There are two core teams of people who help to make Not So Churchy come to life. The Leadership Team gathers with Mieke about once a quarter to talk about the life and direction of the community. In addition, they are charged with considering candidates for baptism as well as those coming to us seeking ordination in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). The Music Team gathers a few times a year to take stock of what we have been doing and to set musical goals. They are our main musicians in monthly leadership. In addition, each worship service requires three volunteers: a song leader from the community, a greeter who also leads us in prayer, and a clean-up person.
What community partnerships do you have?
We are currently working closely with the congregation of Trinity Lutheran Lower East Side Parish. Together we are partnering with local LGBTQ youth organizations to engage in service opportunities as well as a study group on queer theology. We have also recently moved into the beautiful building of Congregation Beth Simchat Torah, a welcoming congregation for people of all sexual orientations and gender identities, and are exploring ways we can work with them in the future.
Are you connected to a denomination?
We are officially connected to the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). We are one of the 1,001 New Worshiping Communities and to that end have received generous funding from our denomination, synod and presbytery. Mieke was ordained in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and her ministry is validated with Not So Churchy, allowing her to officiate the Sacraments.
That said, while we are supported by the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), you don’t need to be Presbyterian or even have heard of Presbyterianism to be part of our community. Community members come from all sorts of religious and nonreligious backgrounds.
Is Not So Churchy a chartered congregation?
We are not a chartered congregation, but instead a worshiping community. It is not our intention to become chartered.
What is the staffing structure for Not So Churchy?
Mieke, our Founding Pastor works ⅓ time for Not So Churchy. Her job is to preach monthly, organize our monthly gathering, provide pastoral care, organize all gatherings in between worship, and hold the larger vision and goals of the community. We also have an intern from Union Theological Seminary in the City of New York who will lead us in a service and education program with our friends at Trinity Lutheran Lower East Side Parish.
How is Not So Churchy funded?
The annual budget for Not So Churchy, including our overhead, is approximately $50,000. Community members and those who believe in our ministry give annually. We have received significant funding from the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), the Synod of the Northeast, and the Presbytery of New York City, but we are at the end of these granting opportunities. In 2016 we received a grant from the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship. We are actively seeking others who would like to help fund our ministry.
How and when did you begin?
In 2011 we began trial services for a year. At that point we didn’t have a name or a routine--we were just trying to figure out what might work for our community. We started worshiping publicly in 2012.
Not So Churchy began after Mieke had attempted to find a job as a pastor in a traditional parish, and due to her sexual orientation was met with resistance. She was the Executive Director of Parity at that point, and with the blessing of Parity’s Board started Not So Churchy. The vision for the community was to gather those not interested in a traditional church, and those who had been hurt by the church, for a healing and empowering space.
I am thinking of bringing a group of people to visit Not So Churchy. Should I contact you first?
Please contact Mieke by sending her an email. It is difficult for us to accommodate large groups of visitors, as they can overwhelm the regular community that meets. If you are a group of two or three people, come on by, if you are larger, we might ask you to refrain.
I don’t live nearby. Can you use any support?
Please! We encourage prayers for the growth of our community. We also receive many new community members through word of mouth, so please help others know about us who might not have come across us yet. Also, if you are interested in helping to fund this ministry, please be in touch with Mieke.