**Our first guest post on the FaithStreet blog comes from Casey Hurley, a twenty-something Manhattanite who works in media. Casey talks about looking for a church in New York and the challenges of being young, socially-active and Christian in New York City.
By Casey Hurley
For most, being a fresh, new twenty-something in New York City is like a kid in a candy shop without parents. Boundaries rarely exist, and if they do they are usually crossed. Everything must be done once, because if you don’t, you’re missing out. Limitless this, bottomless that, it doesn’t stop. I like to think of it as a soap opera that just keeps you hanging on. You find yourself watching the next episode, hoping that this one will be the one where it finally happens. Only what is it and why do you really care? As a Christian, it’s hard to sustain this lifestyle and ignore the ominous voice telling you that there must be more to life than this empty, albeit fun and exciting, existence.
I was raised a Christian, going to a Baptist church, although didn’t really start to develop an interest in my relationship with Christ until I was 21 on a mission trip in Guatemala. That relationship, which has since been on and off, is what made me stop, in the middle of the partying and hung-over days at my magazine job, to realize this lifestyle is not what God wants for me.
So I decided my first step was to find a church, in hopes to find a good Christian community. Given the state of my myopic decision-making at the time, I Googled “church + 11am + nyc”, and was directed to The Journey Church in midtown. It was great to be in the same room as so many positive people; however, I felt very disconnected and let down by video-streaming sermons. A few months passed, and the same voice came back telling me to feed my soul, so I went back to The Journey. Again, I left feeling very anonymous, like I had just gone to see a movie by myself. I found this to be an especially difficult obstacle to actually going back, given the fact that hardly any of my New York City friends were interested in going to church. There was no accountability, and only separation. I was also discouraged by my thought that everyone else in the congregation must be fully devoted to God, spending their nights in bible studies and days being perfect Christians. How could someone with my lifestyle fit in?
Another 6 months or so passed before I found myself faced again by that screaming voice telling me to go to church. But this time it was an actual voice. During a teary phone conversation with my mom, a friendly twenty-something boy walking by attempted to console me. Our conversation ended with his inviting me to go to church with him and a few friends. So I met them at The Redeemer and had a very positive experience, but mostly because I had the fellowship of other Christians. To this day, I still get Sunday morning texts from my friend asking and encouraging me to go to church. This encouragement is key, especially when you’re entrenched in a social scene where God, Spirituality, and frankly anything significant are not the topics for Sunday morning discussions.
The importance of fellowship in my church pursuit was reinforced by a group of girls I recently met. One random Tuesday night at a coffee shop, I spotted a group of girls reading bibles. I approached them and was kindly welcomed into their bible study. Through this group of girls, I was introduced to The Village Church. I had a great experience, and again, found very connected and engaged because I was sharing the experience with others. It also helps to know the meeting place is a couple blocks from my apartment! I would love to see churches that focused more on fellowship, with bible studies that focused on specific parts of Christianity.
In a city as huge as New York City, I still wonder what other churches are out there. It’s great to have FaithStreet as a guide and resource for this information. I don’t feel like my search for the right church is over, and more importantly, I know that my search for balance in this impulsive city has only begun. I now also realize that there are no perfect Christians, and that an interest in getting to know Christ is enough to feel connected to other Christians. One day I hope to find the balance between “having fun” and enjoying all that New York City has to offer, while still feeling engaged and active in my relationship with Christ. I think my first step in this direction is turning off the soap operas!