Progressive religiousish communities in NYC?
June 29, 2014 8:11 AM   Subscribe

Someone I know who is about to graduate from college would like to participate in a religious community in some way and is interested in exploring hyper-progressive religious institutions in New York City (if any exist).

This person has some family ties to Judaism (although has never really participated aside from the occasional casual seder, e.g. he did not have a bar mitzvah) and is somewhat interested in exploring that faith, but he's also interested in Buddhism (probably Zen but Tibetan isn't ruled out either) or any other religion, if the community is "right").

This may seem silly if you believe that a person "is" a Jew or a Buddhist or a Catholic, but this young person is more interested in religion and God in a more general sense (he has studied philosophy and is also a fan of Alan Watts and the psychedelic crew of the 60's) and wants something "more" in his life -- but he could not tolerate any sort of close-mindedness that might be found in an average dogmatic religious institution.

I have a feeling that the secularism of e.g. ethical culture would not appeal to him, though. He's interested in belief systems that acknowledge God and the metaphysical (and that do not reduce it to "science", e.g. the workings and needs of the human brain), while welcoming new members into a warm community.

Any ideas?
posted by DMelanogaster to Religion & Philosophy (11 answers total)
The Society of Friends (aka, Quakers) have an active community in Brooklyn. Their meetinghouse is in Downtown Brooklyn near the Brooklyn Bridge.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:18 AM on June 29, 2014 [2 favorites]

Oh, and Quakers generally tick all boxes - worship services are collective silent meditation, and the group culture is seriously progressive and easygoing and not fundy-ish. A neighbor who grew up irreligious had a rather insistent mother-in-law that made him swear their kid would be raised in some faith, and the Quakers were so low-impact that he decided "I actually might even LIKE this."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:22 AM on June 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

Unitarian Universalism.
posted by dcjd at 8:37 AM on June 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

Definitely second Unitarians - the church in Downtown Brooklyn is really great and very welcoming. I've talked to people who identify as atheists, Jews, etc there. I think several of their members would love to talk about Alan Watts.
posted by sweetkid at 8:44 AM on June 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

I grew up UU, but I don't think UUs would hit the last point-- belief systems that acknowledge God and the metaphysical (and that do not reduce it to "science", e.g. the workings and needs of the human brain). That varies from fellowship to fellowship, though. Maybe Unitarians or Universalists (still around and more christian than UUs generally are), but not UU.

I would say Quakers or maybe UCC ("Unitarians considering Christ") if the liberal end of the general christian faith would work.
posted by supercres at 8:59 AM on June 29, 2014

There is a Friends meeting up at Columbia which, in my experience, is sort of not that welcoming. The 15th street meeting is nicer. St. John the Divine i110 and Amsterdam) s quite progressive with a strong commitment to community service.
posted by shothotbot at 11:09 AM on June 29, 2014

St. Bart's in midtown (Episcopalian)
All Souls on the UES (not super-welcoming in my experience, but lovely service)
Fourth U on the UWS (don't know much about them)
Community on Park Ave
Brooklyn UU (honestly this would be my top pick)
Revolution (run by Jay Bakker, son of Jim & Tammy Faye. I believe they hold services in a bar).

Lots of smaller neighborhood congregations can be very welcoming and progressive as well. I've checked out some really great Lutheran and Episcopalian churches with impressive social justice projects and forward-thinking agendas, but they were a little too focused on god for me.
posted by bunderful at 11:22 AM on June 29, 2014

Buddhism is not likely to work for him, because they don't have a God. If what he wants is just to sit he may be able to find a Zen group that doesn't discuss theory much, but Tibetan Buddhists love their theory.
posted by zadcat at 1:16 PM on June 29, 2014

Definitely look into the Society for Ethical Culture.
posted by Leatherstocking at 1:35 PM on June 29, 2014

Whoops. Just saw that that's not an option. Maybe Riverside Church? It has a very strong tradition of fighting for civil rights and other progressive causes.
posted by Leatherstocking at 1:40 PM on June 29, 2014

Reconstructionist Judaism is basically ultra-progressive, liberal activist spiritualism with a Jewish flavor. They'll generally accept anyone, regardless of religious background, level of observance, etc, and they're extremely in dogmatic. There's also a reconstructionist congregation in Brooklyn that meets in Prospect Park when the weather's ok. I've never been to that one, but I have been to Reconstructionist services and they're pretty great.

Also, +1 to the Quakers.
posted by Itaxpica at 8:49 PM on June 29, 2014

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