New Day Stories
October 15, 2010 | Posted by Doug
"A funeral home, the Holy Spirit bee, and a pre-Christmas blizzard"
New Day Church has been quite a ride so far with plenty of twists and turns along the way. We held our first worship service on October 19, 2008. It was the first of five monthly preview services we held leading up to our official launch in March, 2009. These preview services were a way to get the word out, to let people know what we were about.
We wanted to do everything we could to make a positive impression on people. One decision, of course, was where to hold the service. I tried Bronx Science High School, but they were having a big test that day, I tried other schools, churches, restaurants, none of them were available and the time was drawing near. I kept walking past this funeral home, it was right near a subway stop, right on the Grand Concourse, but I said, no way. I could just hear it: “Hey we’re starting this great new church Sunday, why don’t you come out.” And people saying, “Ok, where are you meeting.” “Um, that funeral home up on Grand Concourse.” And people saying, “That’s pretty creepy. What kind of church is this?”
So finally one day I stopped in, just to inquire. And they were so welcoming. They would be happy to have us worship there, they would not charge us anything. So we had our first worship service at the Fox Funeral Home. It turned out to be a great place - just right for burying the traditions of the past and starting a New Day.
Holy Spirit Bee
The next month we met at Bronx Science High School. Channel 12 News and the NY Times came out to the service to do stories about us. Things were going along fine. I was in the middle of my sermon. And I saw this bee, a yellow jacket, about 30 feet away flying right at me. It was surreal, like everything went into slow motion. I kept preaching and I was just watching this bee, making a bee line for my neck. I tried to duck out of the way but it stung me right on the neck. I’ve been stung a few times, and it always really hurts for a couple of hours, but this time it didn’t hurt. It just kind of injected me with energy. Jorge said the sermon got a lot better after that, more energized. So we joked that it was a holy spirit bee.
Our December service was held just four days before Christmas. We planned an elaborate celebration with power point and some very interesting Christmas carols. A couple days before the service it started snowing, and snowing. I went out on Saturday and it was well over a foot. But they were ploughing and had made a path down to the entrance to the school. So I sent out an email to encourage people to come out. Late Saturday night it started snowing some more. On Sunday morning it was still snowing. My daughter Nora and I were hanging up the big New Day banner outside the entrance to the school. My fingers were numb, the wind was howling, the snow was blowing. I wondered if anyone else was coming out in this blizzard. But more than 20 people showed up including several first time visitors.
All three of our 2008 worship services were highly memorable and provided a great foundation to launch New Day Church!
August 11, 2009 | Posted by Doug
At New Day Church we always have a time for conversations during worship. We tried it at our first worship service and the energy was so vibrant that we made it a regular feature. When Jorman first started coming to New Day, he said, “Those tables are gonna keep me coming back.” We get to know each other around the tables and it’s great to be able to have a meaningful conversation about the scripture and the theme for the day.
The principles which unites us at New Day Church are:
1) connecting with God and following Jesus in a relationship that transforms lives,
2) crossing boundaries of race, class, sexual orientation and age to transform community; and .
3) confronting social injustice with the compassion and abundance of God to transform society.
Doug Cunningham, Sheila Beckford, Jorge Lockward, and Lisa Cunningham formed a leadership team which began meeting regularly through the summer of 2008. Doug, a United Methodist minister, was appointed to this ministry by Bishop Jeremiah Park of the New York Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church. Lisa, who was just graduating from college and preparing to join the New York City Teaching Fellows, committed herself to helping lead this new ministry. Sheila, a recent graduate of Drew Theological Seminary, also felt called to this justice and boundary crossing ministry, as did Jorge, who is the director of Global Praise for the United Methodist General Board of Global Ministries.
We led New Day Church’s first public worship service on October 19, 2008 at the Fox Funeral Home on Grand Concourse at 201st Street with 37 people present. The new congregation continued to worship monthly moving to the Bronx High School of Science in November.
On March 15, 2009 New Day United Methodist Church began weekly worship with 150 people joining in the grand opening celebration. Following Easter, we launched “Six Weeks of Spiritual Growth” from April 19-May 24, 2009, Our next series was “God’s Abundance.” The church moved to Lehman college during the summer of 2009 and then to the Academy of Mt. St. Ursula beginning in September, 2009. We worship there each Sunday at 11:00 a.m. See the Worship page for details.
March 15, 2009 | Posted by Doug
Our grand opening came together in an exhilirating time of worship and celebration! We borrowed 150 chairs from three churches, and we used them all.
After worship Joseph and I were returning chairs to Grace Church in Manhattan. We loaded them 50 high on a dolly and pushed them from the truck toward the church. Then we came to the curb. How were we going to get this heavy load over the curb? Joseph looked at me and said, “Have faith.”
I must admit, I had my doubts. But Joseph confidently pushed ahead. We tried tilting the load back and pushing forward. My doubts were increasing, but Joseph remained confident. A man was walking down the sidewalk - Joseph said, “Would you mind giving us a hand?” The man willingly agreed, and the three of us were able to get the load up on the sidewalk without too much trouble. Joseph, moving forward confidently in faith, was looking for solutions and found one.
I believe God wants us all to thrive and will send us solutions, ideas, energy, and people to make great things happen. And after yesterday’s grand opening - one of many amazing experiences along this road - I believe we’re in for a fantastic journey at New Day Church!
December 31, 2008 | Posted by admin
New Year’s Eve wonders what the next 12 months will bring. There’s future expectation, but also present reality. This New Year’s Eve the snow is falling gently, the air is cold. My daughter is frantically finishing 6 college applications due in the next six hours. We’re all reading and critiquing her college essay. It’s College Eve. Where will she go? How far away will she be? How will she like it? Who will she meet? How much will it cost?
It’ll soon be Inauguration Eve - the beginning of a new era in U.S. politics? an awakening to justice, civil rights, peace, hope? Anticipation but also present reality. Crisis all around us, Change is in the air.
New Day’s Eve. A vision of connecting, crossing and confronting coming into being. Anticipation and also present reality - people with skin and ideas and passions worshiping God together, getting to know one another around tables. What will we do together? Who will we become? What impact will we make in this community? How will we change? We’re already changing.