Bwog’s series of theological tales continues with Bwog newbie Lucy Sun’s ChurchHop of the Times Square Mega-Church.
Times Square Church holds its services in a straight-up Broadway theater—gilded, shiny, elaborate carpet and all. There is something soul-happy about a glitzy venue that flings its doors open wide to all comers. The congregation takes a loose interpretation of “Sunday best”—for some, it means ill-fitting suits, for others, cashmere sweaters. An older woman in the front row rocks an extravagant hat, while the girl in front of me wears jeans with bejeweled pockets.
As the service begins, an usher helps me to my seat while a full choir as diverse as a Columbia viewbook sings call-and-response gospel music, with a rollicking piano and drum set. The clapping of the congregation gets out of sync—some are clapping on the downbeats, some on the upbeats—some are dancing in place. A lot of people sit down before the music ends, just to chill out for a little while.
A pastor takes the pulpit, and his head is simulcast on a giant TV while he makes a bunch of announcements, which include a wedding to which the entire church is invited, and “Christmas caroling with the nursing home ministry.” As soon as those words escape the pastor’s giant simulcast mouth, it hits me—this is Organized Religion. This is what a megachurch looks like in New York City.
In the sermon, there is a strong, self-conscious sense that Christians are a minority in the city. “You and I are the only Bibles that New York City is going to read,” says the pastor. He begins the sermon calm and collected, and by the sermon’s end, he is fighting tears with a desperate tone in his voice. Members of the congregation cry.
I leave the theatre with a feeling of catharsis.
Going to a megachurch is a deeply American experience, akin to, well, going to Times Square. Times Square Church is located on 51st St on the corner of Broadway. Sunday services are at 10 am, 3 pm, and 6 pm.