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.”
Since pastor Amy Kienzle took up the helm at Greenpoint’s Lutheran Church of the Messiah, the space has seen a flurry of diverse community activities – playing host to a farmer’s market, an interactive art exhibit, feminist dialogue, dance workshops, and providing temporary respite to the neighborhood’s homeless.
And with the positive response generated from those community events, Kienzle is now shepherding the Church through a transition into a Co-op.
Park Church Co-op, as it will now be known, was made possible through grant funding by the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America. While the Co-op will continue to operate like a church in the sense that it will continue to offer traditional services, it will also function as a hub for the community, regardless of religious persuasions. And the services too will get creative with Kienzle looking to incorporate sound healing and meditation into some of the offerings at the Church.
“The traditional model just isn’t working anymore, and now it will be more of a spiritual community center,” said Kienzle. “We want this to be a place where the needs of the people are met in new and creative ways and a place where everyone is welcome – whether it be dance groups, or yoga or feeding programs – different ways to bring the community together.”
With the number of groups using the Church, Kienzle thought a Co-op style structure would be the most effective, giving the groups greater involvement with the space and enabling them to create more programming for the community to get involved.