Tag Archives: Hipster church

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.”

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Hipster Church Tour: Life on the Vine

life on the vine

As part of the research for my book, I’ve been visiting churches all over the country over the past year—a tour of “America’s hippest churches,” you might say. The goal is to gain a good bit of qualitative data on the subject I’m writing about and to understand firsthand how various church bodies are fitting in to this whole thing. I have stopped at dozens of churches in many states and talked with countless people, and every now and then on my blog I will describe in depth my various observations about these churches.

The first stop on my tour was Jacob’s Well in Kansas City. Read about that here.

The second stop was Mars Hill Church in Seattle. Click here for that one.

Next up is Life on the Vine, a “Christian community” in the suburbs of Chicago.

Church Name: Life on the Vine
Location: Long Grove, IL
Head Pastor: David Fitch

Summary: This unassuming little church in the Chicago suburb of Long Grove may not be as flashy as some of the other hipster churches (it’s not really flashy at all), but it represents the type of congregation that more and more Christian hipsters resonate with. It’s a church that is deeply rooted in early church traditions and believes in the importance of community, liturgy, symbol, and sacrament—but not in a pretentious or overly stylized way. It’s also a church that is very mission-minded and committed to social justice. Part of the Christian Missionary Alliance denomination, Life on the Vine is pastored by David Fitch, who teaches theology classes at Northern Seminary and authored the book The Great Giveaway. I visited on a cold, snowy Sunday morning in January, and had the pleasure of going out to lunch with several of the church leaders (including Fitch) after the service.

Building: The church occupies an old, nondescript Christian Missionary Alliance building in a quiet, leafy suburban setting. It’s a very small building with a sanctuary that can’t hold more than a few hundred people. The chairs are set up in a round, so that worshippers are looking at each other during the service and no one is all that far from the preacher or scripture readers—who read or pray from the four sides of the square space.

Congregation: The congregation at Life on the Vine is slightly more diverse than the average hipster church. There is a fair share of fashionable young people and suburban yuppies, but there are also some older folks and a lot of families and children. While the church does have a children’s catechesis-type class, it doesn’t have a youth group. “Youth groups destroy children’s lives,” Fitch told me. The church is big on involving the congregation in service and equipping the laity for leadership. There are no full-time pastors or staffers, and the alternating schedule of preachers includes a handful of seminary students from the nearby Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. It’s a very user-driven church.

Music: The worship band at Life on the Vine is led by Geoff Holsclaw, and the band is situated somewhat awkwardly (but totally deliberately) in the back corner of the building. This unassuming position is meant to remove any “performance” element and facilitate a more collective worship experience. It fits with the church’s larger focus on a more communal experience where individuals are not emphasized as much as the collective group.

Arts: The church walls and projector screens are full of visual art, described on the website “not as decoration but as windows into God’s goodness or as mirrors confronting our sin. In a culture dominated by deformed images, we believe God uses these holy images to renew our imaginations.” The church seems to be open to secular art and culture as well. In the sermon on the day I attended, the young preacher referenced Coldplay’s “Death and all His Friends” and Sufjan Stevens’ “John Wayne Gacy, Jr.”

Technology: Minimal. There was a projector screen with song lyrics and some art images, but that was about it. It might as well have been the early 90s.

Neighborhood: Wealthy suburban. Long Grove is part of the middle and upper class stretch of Chicago’s Northwest suburbs. It’s an odd setting for a progressive, hipster church like this—but the presence of Trinity in nearby Deerfield feeds a lot of Christian hipster traffic.

Preaching: This is where Life on the Vine is perhaps most unique. David Fitch is not a fan of expository preaching or three point “life application” sermons that isolate a passage of scripture from its larger context. Rather, he advocates a preaching that is grounded in the larger narrative of scripture. Before the sermon at Life on the Vine, two passages from the Old Testament and two from the New Testament are read aloud, as context for the main sermon’s text. The preaching at this church is more descriptive than prescriptive; it’s less about handing out “to do” lists than unfurling the reality of who God is and what the world means in light of the gospel of Christ. It isn’t about “how-to” or “self-help” as much as it is about honestly telling the story of scripture and letting its reality speak for itself.

Quote from pulpit: “We cannot reach up to Heaven. Heaven reaches down to us.”

Quote from website: “Sermons inspire, but Scripture is inspired. Preachers motivate, but the Spirit moves. We want to preach the Word with humility, being wary of the pitfalls of topical preaching, proof-texts, and legalistic application. We think the Bible can speak for itself.”

Heading Across the Pond

I’m leaving on Saturday on a “research”/“writing” trip to New York City, London, Oxford and Paris. The reason I’m going is threefold:

-I wanted to visit churches in New York City, London and Paris (probably the world’s three hippest cities) as part of my hipster church tour.
-I wanted to have a week in Oxford just to write.
-I needed new scenery and a summer vacation.

The coolest thing about my trip is that when I’m in Oxford, I will be staying at the Kilns—the quaint little English home of C.S. Lewis on the outskirts of the city. The house is owned by the C.S. Lewis Foundation, who I’ve been associated with for the last 4 years. The Foundation opens the home throughout the year to scholars and writers who need an inspiring place to get their work done. They call it the C.S. Lewis Study Centre.

Of course I feel completely lucky and spoiled that I’ll get to spend a week there—sleeping in the room where Lewis slept from 1930-1963. I’m immensely blessed to be able to write in the study where Lewis wrote the majority of his world-impacting texts. I only hope some of his brilliant, humble spirit will waft its way into my own hand as I write in that place. I don’t expect miracles—but Lewis would probably say that I should.

Anyway, I will be hopefully be updating my blog every few days throughout my time in Europe, wherever wifi is available. After my week in Oxford, I’ll be in London for a few days, and then in Paris for four days. So bon voyage, readers! Next time you hear from me will likely be Sunday night, from Brooklyn—where I’ll be writing from the cradle of hipster civilization.