Talk about community spirit!
A Greenpoint Lutheran church has re-branded itself as a co-op, offering membership to locals of any — or no — religious persuasion, and allowing them to add their own activities the house of worship’s services — including secular dance parties and exercise classes.
The makeover has ruffled a few feathers in the church’s small flock, but the pastor says the order came from the top.
“The vision for the co-op is to be able to serve our neighbors, which is a command that Jesus gave for the church,” said Amy Kienzle, who re-named the Lutheran Church of the Messiah on Russell Street as the Park Church Co-op in June.
The sanctuary still holds traditional worship sessions for its Lutheran congregation, but its secular members have also added services including Dancorcism — where parishioners and outsiders “dance out their demons” — and Sound Church — where people gather under the church’s reverberating high ceilings to make sounds like meditative “ohms,” chants, and songs.
A few members of Kienzle’s small congregation left the church over the change, but she says the remaining worshipers have welcomed the newcomers, and the new members say they already feel like they belong.
“A church was built with the intention of being this place where people can come and connect,” said Debbie Attias, who teaches both Dancorcism and Sound Church. “It’s a sacred space where you can come and connect with other people in the community.”
The church had already been hosting some of the alternative activities in its stained-glass space since before Kienzle took the helm two years ago — including booze-free dance party No Lights No Lycra and jump-rope-centered workout classes called Punk Rope. But the new pastor said she wanted to recognize the unconventional part-time tenants as equal members.
“I realized as I got to know a lot of the people who use the church that they felt like it was their home also,” said Kienzle. “I realized they already have an ownership of it, so I wanted to build that into the vision of what we wanted to do with this ministry.”
And Kienzle isn’t just bringing the neighborhood into the church — she is also taking her ministry out into the neighborhood. The clergywoman mingles with shoppers and blesses the fresh produce at the nearby McGolrick Park farmers market on Sundays, and she also hit the park at the beginning of summer to hold a “bike blessing” for local two-wheelers.
Park Church Co-op [129 Russell St. between Nassau and Driggs Avenues in Greenpoint, (718) 389–0854, www.parkc