From a Pastor's Desk

A series of opinion articles from rostered ministers and lay leaders from our Synod.


In the Neighborhood

May 30, 2024

By The Rev. Timothy Weisman

The Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Holy Trinity
I arrived in New York to begin my call at Holy Trinity in Manhattan on March 10, 2020. (I have impeccable timing.) To describe it as “challenging” might inadvertently euphemize what it actually felt like living alone in a maze of a Parish House, spending hours and hours on Zoom with congregational leaders and staff whom I’d barely met, all while recording and publishing services on YouTube in which I was the preacher, presider, organist, cinematographer, and audio-visual engineer. Oh, and I also caught COVID three weeks after I got here. Ouch.
Truth be told, I’m pretty sure all of us at Holy Trinity were feeling awfully daunted. Pastoral transitions are hard enough for a congregation, even when its members and their pastor aren’t completely worried about whence their next groceries will come. So, we focused on exactly two things as a congregation, and we tried to do them extremely well: “online worship,” a term that seemed for us to predate its definition, and post-service coffee hours on Zoom. While I hasten to add that many appreciated what we were doing, others did not, and since my first day of work included shutting down our Saturday lunch ministry named “H.U.G.,” plus our respite bed shelter for single women, plus our now-56-year-old tradition of Bach Vespers, I get how someone might start to wonder if this wasn’t the Holy Trinity they’d signed up for, either.
One of my core, unrelenting, don’t-even-try-to-fight-me-on-this theological convictions is that the God we know through Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit plays the long game, and the story of a nocturnal Nicodemus unexpectedly reappearing in broad daylight to anoint his dead Savior’s body certainly comes to mind. As a result of this conviction, I was never not convinced that Holy Trinity didn’t have a purpose in this neighborhood, even if it’s not the one I thought I knew. So, when we shut down H.U.G., we went into Central Park with sandwiches and care packages instead. Even though we knew our respite bed shelter wouldn’t open for at least another year, we installed a brand-new shower for the women, anyway. We reimagined Bach Vespers to make it look and sound really good online, even as we’d hoped that it would all be temporary. In other words, if God is going to play the long game, so are we because our hopes and dreams will never be in vain.
If the purpose of the Metropolitan New York Synod is to live like Christ in our communities, that’s how we’re doing it at Holy Trinity. After all, we’re back to in-person worship on Sunday morning and at Bach Vespers; H.U.G. and Women’s Shelter have reopened, and even though the latter has closed again due to the city’s shifting priorities, the shower is still getting plenty of use. We’re growing as a congregation, and you can’t convince me that doesn’t have to do with our team creating the clearest live stream in Christendom, which gives newcomers a glimpse of who we are and the community we make before even stepping foot in the door. But more importantly, we’re still playing the long game at Holy Trinity, even as we’re presenting installing a washer and dryer for a ministry we haven’t created yet, and we’ve signed a contract for a multi-million-dollar pipe organ for which we have not yet raised all the funds. 
I guess that’s all pretty bold, but most days, I can’t tell anymore. What I do know is that my call at Holy Trinity is nothing like what I’d expected: it’s actually exciting. After all, in a society that is increasingly turned in on itself (see: Incurvatus in se), I get to serve a congregation that is moving slowly and deliberately towards being the church we believe God is calling us to be. Or maybe I just have impeccable timing. And if you take the chance, I bet you do, too.