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. In addition, here is our 2018 annual report. 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 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 participants cannot commit to more than monthly worship and additional community-building, educational or service gathering. We have learned 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 the broader life of the community.
We have found that monthly worship gatherings are sufficient for the community. We also have a private 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.
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 a parishioner and our musical team. 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?
We are a queer church. What that means to us is two things. We are a community made for and by LQBTQIA+ people and our cis-straight allies. But to “queer” something, goes far beyond how one identifies. We are a community queering the traditional notions of church. We worship queerly. As we lift up our questions and doubts, and we reject binaries. We look for God’s word in the authority of our lived experience and celebrate the image of God in ourselves and each other. We come together to learn, and we value collaborative improvisation over perfectly-executed mastery.
Are kids welcome?
Absolutely! We have several children who have are important members of our community. 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 our Pastor about once a quarter to talk about the life and direction of the community. 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 two volunteers: a greeter who also leads us in prayer, and a clean-up champion.
What community and denominational partnerships do you have?
While our pastor was ordained in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), we have relationships with a broad range of congregations and communities. Some of them support us financially, one of them, Congregation Beth Simchat Torah, houses us, and others, such as More Light Presbyterians, an umbrella organization of which we are a member, fight for the full participation of LGBTQ people in the life, ministry, and witness of the church and in society at large.
Is Not So Churchy a chartered congregation?
We are not a chartered congregation, but instead a worshiping community. This is an important and yet complex distinction. We aren't bound by the requirements of being a congregation, thus we are not SO churchy. And yet, we really appreciate the support that congregatants give to each other and so live into that part of being churchy with each other.
What is the staffing structure for Not So Churchy?
Mieke, our Founding Pastor works very part time for Not So Churchy. Her job is to organize worship and preach monthly, and hold the larger vision and goals of the community. The Leadership Team and congregants plan and organize all other spirituality groups, community events and service opportunities. They also welcome new congregants and offer care to one another. We also have a Community Coordinator, Emily DeTar Birt.
How is Not So Churchy funded?
The annual budget for Not So Churchy, including our overhead, is approximately $50,000. Community members (congregants) and generous individuals who believe in our ministry give annually. In the past we have received significant funding from the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), the Synod of the Northeast, and the Presbytery of New York City. In 2016 we received a grant from the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship.
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 stop asking the church for permission to include LGBTQ folks in the church in meaningful ways but begin to model a community that we together came to imagine and dream of. And so we began, gathering those not interested in a traditional church, and those who had been hurt by the church into this 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 go to our donate page and make a contribution. We would love to have you as part of the conversation!