Good preaching in NYC?
November 9, 2011 5:30 AM   Subscribe

Where can I find really good preaching in New York?

After years of inertia remaining in a church I disagree with on social (and doctrinal) issues, I'm ready to switch to a more progressive denomination. I know I have lots of options in NYC, but I'd like to get recommendations for excellent preaching/teaching. In particular, I'd like for my adolescent kids to hear sermons that are relevant to today's issues and that help them have a richer understanding of themselves, the world, and God. (Or... what I really mean is I'd like for them to get something out of the sermons.)

Tim Keller's preaching and writing is noted now and then on MeFi, and it's not a bad example of what I'm looking for in terms of thoughtfulness. Unfortunately, Redeemer Presbyterian is part of the denomination I want to leave. I don't have a new denomination in mind, and I'm open to trying most anything where women can be ordained and gay people don't require deprogramming. I guess one style caveat is I don't want to attend services that are completely contemporary in style, as I do value good music and liturgy.

Any recommendations much appreciated!
posted by torticat to Religion & Philosophy (8 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
How about our very own Fr. Stynxno?
posted by brownpau at 6:01 AM on November 9, 2011 [1 favorite]

A sweet suggestion, brownpau, but Stynxno is in school and only does a guest spot here and there.

The ELCA is progressive (we love women! we love gays!) and many churches maintain a traditional format, though it varies from church to church. You might browse the local synod's website to check out churches near you.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 6:31 AM on November 9, 2011

I hate to be the one to break it to you, but progressive denominations, in general, aren't really known for the quality of their preaching, at least if you think Keller is an okay example of the type. Preaching, as such, seems to be a pretty conservative thing to think is important.

There are certainly counter-examples to be found, but when progressive clergy get famous, it's usually for something other than the quality of their sermons. Could be their activism, their scholarship, their participation in ecclesiastical politics, or just their ministry work in general. But progressive traditions tend more towards homilies than more formal--and longer--sermons.

You're looking for denomination that ordains women and approves of homosexuality. That rules out the vast majority of Christian traditions currently active in America. In terms of major traditions, i.e. denominations with more than a few dozen churches, you're left with the ELCA, ECUSA, UCC, PCUSA, and maybe the UUC, if you want to count them. None of them, as far as I know, put the same kind of premium on sermonizing as the PCA does. I've been to more than service at all of those denominations (except UUC), and never saw a homily last more than fifteen minutes. Some were less than ten. Mostly they were a sort of general reflection vaguely related to the text for the day. One time the priest actually used It's a Wonderful Life as his text. I kid you not.

That being said, you can almost certainly find the odd progressive preacher here and there who really gets into it. One thing about progressive denominations is that congregations tend to vary dramatically, especially when compared to more conservative denominations like the PCA. The difference between Redeemer in NYC and the PCA church I attend in Indiana is much smaller than the difference I've observed between progressive congregations in the same city. A single tradition like the ELCA, for example, contains congregations that even the conservative wing of ELCA considers to be quite a bit out there, while also containing congregations that are just as conservative as they ever were but have somehow not gotten around to leaving the denomination yet. Conservative denominations tend to be, by comparison, a lot more uniform. So, basically, if you're looking for a conservative church that ordains women, you're just not going to find it, but if you're looking for a progressive church that has what you would consider to be good preaching, it's unlikely but possible.

I'm going to suggest that you check out All Angels' Episcopal, on W. 80th and Broadway. The priest and congregation there isn't exactly progressive, theologically speaking--there has been, as I understand it, some historical tension with the diocese and they were having serious conversations a few years back about their future in the ECUSA--but the priest there is a great guy and does actually deliver a proper sermon, not a homily. The service is pretty high-church most of the time. Basically, if you're coming from the PCA and looking for a slightly more progressive place to be in NYC that still feels sort of like home, it's the first place I'd send you.
posted by valkyryn at 6:51 AM on November 9, 2011

Churchrater might help.
posted by timsteil at 6:57 AM on November 9, 2011

Thanks for the shoutout Brownpau.

I'm gonna have to disagree with some of what valkyryn has said. I don't agree that the difference between a sermon and a homily is how long it is. From the perspective of the Lutheran church, the sermon is on par with the eucharist as a sacrament. It is elevated in status and position when compared to other denominations but is less important than in others (because we have more than one sacrament). We're suppose to take preaching to be A BIG DEAL which, theologically, it is. But, like all things, execution varies depending on the gifts of the pastor and the congregation.

alert: self-promotion ahead

I'm an intern at Advent Lutheran Church in Manhattan. The sermons tend to be good and the professor of preaching at Union Seminary is an pastor associate and preaches once a month. Advent is also a Reconciling in Christ congregation, does preform same-sex marriages, and has a large GLBT population. The head pastor is a woman as well. The congregation also does have a very active youth and family program with a great director. We have an active Sunday school, confirmation program, and high school and middle school youth groups. And we have an active adult education program. The liturgy tends to be on the lower-church of the high church side but is faithful to the LBW and ELW. And with the large number of trained musicians in the congregation, it's a rather musical place.

From your profile, it seems you're in LIC. My home congregation is Trinity Long Island City and is located not too far from you. It has a much higher church style of worship, a great organist, a great pastor who is great with kids and teenagers, and is a small but growing congregation.

If you want to explore any other Lutheran Churches in the City (or Episcopalian - I'm currently attending General Theological Seminary), feel free to contact me and I'll try to fill you in as best I can!
posted by Stynxno at 7:59 PM on November 9, 2011

valkyryn, thank you for taking the time to put those thoughts in writing. I am aware that I'm looking for something that kinda breaks the mold.

I should maybe clarify that I'm not really looking for something slightly more progressive, though. I don't believe that hell exists, for example, nor in biblical inerrancy. The UUC is probably further than I'd like to go, but short of that, I'm open. I'm not averse to homily-length talks; I just want something more than shallow platitudes.

TPS-- I live in Astoria, so... actually your church is in my neighborhood. :) I would love to visit.

Thanks, all.
posted by torticat at 7:29 AM on November 10, 2011

Oops, just saw your reply also, Stynxno. Will definitely follow up on your recommendations, and I may well be in touch. Thanks a lot.
posted by torticat at 7:31 AM on November 10, 2011

I don't agree that the difference between a sermon and a homily is how long it is.

I don't either, actually, and if that's the message I communicated, that's my bad. But the OP has said she's looking for sermons in the style of Tim Keller only more progressive theologically. That just isn't something I've ever heard of.
posted by valkyryn at 5:35 AM on November 11, 2011

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