Megachurch in Manhattan

By Ruby Samuels

Have you ever wanted to go to a Sunday mass off campus? Feel too awkward to visit a congregation that you aren’t part of and don’t intend to join? Maybe you aren’t even Christian. I’m certainly not. I was raised on the upper west side of Manhattan, infamous home to the Seinfeld jew. But And yet, I’ve always been curious about what Sunday mass is like. I I never had a real preference for what sort of mass I wanted to attend, whether it’s the kind of beautiful black gospel that Elvis claimed and crowned himself with, or the European type of service that I’ve only seen depicted in movies like Chocolat.

This past Sunday, at 3 in the afternoon, I finally found a mass to attend. I felt a bit awkward going in my beanie and flannel- as though people would say, “look at that secular Jewish girl let loose by herself in a church”- but when I arrived at the church doors I blended in.

In fact, I was more dressed up than many amidst the throngs of people waiting to enter. The sidewalk outside the Manhattan Center where the service would be held looked more like the line outside Stephen Colbert’s Late Show than a church. That’s because this was Hillsong Church, the pop music, purple disco lit, Evangelical megachurch of Manhattan.  

Hillsong’s website must be on some social media intern’s Pinterest board. There are faded Instagram-esque pictures of rock music stages, modern amplified cursive, advertisements for indie rock music records and books, plus several social media links. Hillsong was founded in 1998 in Sydney, Australia by Brian and Bobbie Houston, a couple who believe in Evangelical and Pentacostal Christianity. I was there to do research on a paper about the use of media in religion, so the blonde Australian models singing about Jesus’s blood on a stage that could be mistaken for any major pop music venue was perfect for me. Standing every ten feet were “hosts” dressed in all black, smiling enthusiastically and holding trays full of gold-foil wrapped chocolate eggs. The sermon was delivered by an Australian man with tattoo sleeves, plenty of alcohol-related joked and an African American partner who seemed to be there for to laugh, look very cool and bring diversity points to the Church admin.

To be standing amidst balconies full of people swaying and singing along to the Christian indie-rock was something else. There was an ongoing music video, projected onto a giant screen behind the stage, of guitars, rock-concert stages nature scenes and subtitles so that everyone could participate. At one point, the music video was interrupted with pictures of last year’s “Prom Remix” which is a major fundraising and community building event that happens every February (if you are interested in attending, this year’s Prom is on February 10th and tickets are $10 each).


After Heidi Klum and Chris Martin doppelgangers finished their indie Christian rock concert, a tattooed pastor told a story about his five year old son offering a quarter to his doctor after a regular check up, as a way of instilling moral common sense of giving and reciprocity in the congregation before asking the hosts to “pass those containers around.” He wasn’t what I expected from a pastor, and I realize that he is most likely not a pastor that most of my Christian friends and acquaintances would be familiar with either. He made jokes about day-drinking and references to rap songs. He seemed to be entertaining the congregation first and preaching second. However, he could be appealing to a young Christian population that might not otherwise practice their faith because of outdated church services that cannot compete with modern digital devices and entertainment venues. In any case, Hillsong Church is clearly drawing large crowds of diverse people who are happy and excited to be participating in their own form of modern, media-centric Christianity.

If you are curious, go to 311 W 34th St, New York, NY 10001 on any Sunday at 10am, 12 pm, or 3 pm.

Ruby Samuels is a junior at Barnard and Editor for Barnard Bite




A Response to A “Colorblind” Plea

By: Breana HindsScreen Shot 2016-11-07 at 3.24.36 PM.png

Perhaps I should begin by saying that I in no way endorse some of the out-of-order behavior that the Overheard @ Barnard Facebook page carries on with. Although it’s just reflective of actual things people have said on campus, it often gets to be a bit much. With that being said, I think it’s fair to say that anyone who doesn’t identify as black has no right to attempt to control, restrict or reinterpret (inappropriately, I might add) the words, struggles, reactions or emotions of black people in situations that are unique to the black community. The argument that “A Color-Coded Right to Speak” brings up is reminiscent of the “All of Lives Matter” retort against “Black Lives Matter”. It attempts to silence the very voices that speak out against the oppression and injustice that continues to suffocate the black community. Read More »

You Only Pumpkin Once

By Allison Yeh

The leaves have turned their different shades of orange, red, and yellow. The air feels like you just sprayed your nose with saline water. And that impulse brought pumpkin outside the grocery store has become your new best friend. That’s right, it’s Fall.

“But how ‘bout them apples?” Your roommate might ask when you bring home that 15 pound pumpkin from Zabars.

While she makes a good point, apples are indeed part of the autumn celebration, you ask her if she has ever dressed up as an apple for Halloween? You ask her if she has ever seen apple flavored Oreos. NO, she hasn’t, because fall doesn’t love apples the way it loves pumpkins, the way it defends them no matter what. Apples are the things you have on the side – the things you might secretly love more but will never admit until you are eating leftover pumpkin soup in March. Apples could be had any time of the year, but pumpkins are season specific.

In fall, you can do whatever you want with a pumpkin. You are invincible. The simple response when looked at strangely for spreading pumpkin spice butter on your pumpkin spice bagel: “Just Fall things!” Or when you decide to do your makeup modeled after that Pumpkin Spice Latte (PSL) you had that morning…


(from @lowcheekbones)

You’re not crazy, it’s just the season!

You don’t even have to say it twice for even “non-pumpkin believers” to start nodding their heads and asking where you got that pumpkin shaded blush.

“But pumpkin spice doesn’t have pumpkin in it!” Your roommate points out while watching pumpkin drool down your chin.

You then roll your eyes and tell her: it’s not the real pumpkin that matters, it’s the magic of the word and what it represents.

You tell her the idea is “YOPO” – You Only Pumpkin Once. There is only one time of the year where it is socially acceptable to turn pumpkin into a verb, and that’s now. Go pumpkining with your friends under the crisp autumn trees. Pumpkin your chips, your pop tarts, your toothpaste. Pumpkin your room, your table, your door entrance. You warn your roommate that there is only a limited amount of time to pumpkin because come winter, your pumpkin will turn into a carriage. And how the fuck are you supposed to make a latte out of a carriage?

Allison Yeh is a sophomore at Barnard and Lead Features Editor for Barnard Bite.