Hipster Church Tour: Resurrection Presbyterian

Church Name: Resurrection Presbyterian

Location: Brooklyn, NY

Head Pastor: Vito Aiuto

Summary: Resurrection Presbyterian is a noteworthy hipster church for a number of reasons. Launched in 2004 as a plant of the Redeemer planting network, Resurrection is situated smack dab in the heart of worldwide hipster culture: Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Not only that, but the church is pastored by Vito Aiuto, a full-blooded Christian hipster who is a reverend by day and indie musician by night. He and his wife Monique moonlight as The Welcome Wagon and released their Sufjan Stevens-produced debut album on Asthmatic Kitty in late 2008. The church itself bears many of the typical marks of a vibrant hipster Christian community: liturgy, pews, communion out of a common cup (with real port!), and a strongly infused mission-mindedness that includes local social justice work, HIV/AIDS ministry in Africa, and a leadership development/church-planting initiative known as the Brooklyn Church Project. I attended Resurrection on a steamy, stormy May evening in 2009.

Building: The church meets at St. Paul’s Lutheran church in Williamsburg. St. Paul’s meets in the morning, and Resurrection Presbyterian meets in the evenings. It’s a beautiful old building, with stained glass, organ, and dark wood pews. It’s a creaky, humid structure that fits well with the liturgy, read prayers and quirky renditions of ancient hymns that make up a typical Resurrection service.

Congregation: There were about 100 people in worship on the Sunday I attended (granted, it was Memorial Day weekend), and the crowd seemed to be mostly twentysomething singles and a few young families, with a smattering of older folks here and there. Naturally, there were a LOT of hipsters in attendance, with tattoos, scruffy beards and skinny jeans galore.

Music: The music reflects the style of The Welcome Wagon: pared down, acoustic, vintage, thoroughly hipster but totally reverent. On the day I attended, there appeared to be only two musicians in the worship ensemble—a woman who sang and man who alternated playing guitar, piano, and a number of other instruments. The worship songs were entirely old hymns, including “Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise,” and “Fairest Lord Jesus.” There were also a number of purely instrumental songs—a tenor sax prelude, a jazzy ragtime-sounding piano solo during offertory and communion, etc. The music was quiet and worshipful and fit the building well. It was about the farthest thing you could get from your typical megachurch rock band or praise team.

Arts: Many artists and aesthetically-minded people attend the church, and the fact that the pastor is an acclaimed indie rock artist indicates that this is a congregation quite naturally and organically “artsy.”

Technology: Almost nill. There are no overhead projectors of any kind, and the music has no bells and whistles whatsoever. It’s a slap in the face to technophile churches everywhere.

Neighborhood: Williamsburg: the epicenter of hip. Though increasingly gentrified, the neighborhood still has its rough edges, ethnic diversity and pockets of poverty, which makes it even more appealing to hipsters. This area of Brooklyn—bordered by Greenpoint, Bedford-Stuyvesant and Bushwick—is packed with trendy bars, concert venues, vegan restaurants, record stores, vintage clothiers and used bookstores, especially along Bedford Avenue. The arts and indie music community in this area of New York is particularly strong, with new Pitchfork-heralded bands emerging seemingly weekly from the lofts and dingy flats of the Brooklyn scene.

Preaching: Vito Aiuto speaks mosts Sundays, though on the day I attended he was absent and associate pastor Chris Hildebrand spoke on the topic of Christ’s ascension (the last part of the “He is Risen Indeed! Stories of Resurrection Life” series). Hildebrand’s sermon, which incorporated quotes from N.T. Wright and references to Google Maps, focused on Christ’s kingly authority and the implications of the ascension on our lives—that Jesus calls us to both humility and hope. In subsequent weeks I also listened to sermons online that Vito preached on a Farmer’s market-inspired sermon series about the fruits of the spirit: “Organic, Local and Beautiful: Bearing the Fruits of God’s Spirit.” It was a fascinating series of sermons because it seemed entirely appropriate and directed toward the hipster Christian audience, and yet thoroughly Biblical as well.

Quote from pulpit: “We don’t want to be the man. We want to be as far away from that as possible. We know what we don’t want to be. But the question is: what do you want to give your life to? What will this church look like? We have a pretty good idea about what church we don’t want to belong to, but what kind of church are we going to be?” (5/31/09)

Quote from website: “A look at our liturgy—the pattern of our worship together—shows that worship begins with God’s gracious movement towards us: God calls us to worship; he tells us of the forgiveness of our sins; he speaks his word of comfort, rebuke, and encouragement; he feeds us at Holy Communion.”

5 responses to “Hipster Church Tour: Resurrection Presbyterian

  1. One of my good friends pastors a church that is connected to Resurrection Pres: Park Slope Presbyterian Church (http://www.parkslopechurch.com/).

  2. I am actually a member of this church and have nothing but highest praise for the community and worship it facilitates. But must we pigeon-hole it as a hipster church?

  3. The term ‘hipster’ mostly works as a kneejerk reaction to the sort of desire for semantic nuance and specificity of language that comes from the culture the word is meant to describe.

  4. I’m also a member of this congregation and agree with what Kristin said above. I am a little surprised by the way you portray the Rev. Vito Aiuto. It seems a bit misleading to describe him as moonlighting as an indie hipster musician. Welcome Wagon just doesn’t have much to do with Res Pres. Vito has never once mentioned the Welcome Wagon from the pulpit. And if you ask him about it, he is quick to tell you that he is a pastor first. I would hate to see this great church cast in too narrow a light.

  5. Kristen and Katie- Thanks for your comments. I do not intend to pigeon-hole or cast Resurrection Pres. in too narrow a light. I thought it was a great church, enjoyed the people I met there, and, as with many of the “hipster churches” I’ve visited in research for my book, I would probably attend there myself if I lived in Brooklyn. I’m not writing about these churches from a place or scorn, and I regret that the designation “hipster” has such a seemingly immediate negative connotation. I’m merely employing the term and the category to get at deeper issues and questions that the broader church needs to reckon with.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s