This article appeared in LA Times, Belief section on Saturday, March 15, 2008:
As downtown revives, so do congregations
A growing, diverse population in the L.A. neighborhood results in new parishes and bigger old ones.
By K. Connie Kang
Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
March 15, 2008
The congregation at New City Church of Los Angeles -- downtown's newest house of worship -- is a microcosm of the burgeoning downtown itself.
The parishioners, who gathered for a recent service improvised in an Italian restaurant near Walt Disney Concert Hall, included some local loft dwellers. About two dozen adults -- some with squirming toddlers in tow -- spent half an hour visiting with one another over yogurt and fresh fruit before the Sunday morning worship. They were white and black, Asian and Latino, well-to-do and down and out."
If I am not living with God being first in my life, I am going to end up pushing a cart," said Jason Johnson, a Union Rescue Mission resident who is enrolled in a program to get back on his feet. He is fortunate, he said, to have a welcoming church within walking distance.
"I want to be here," said Booyeon Lee Allen, a reporter for the Los Angeles Business Journal who is an active church member along with her husband, Aric, an online marketing manager at Transamerica Insurance Co. "It's so exciting," she said, to be part of a diverse group who "can get along, pray together and be involved in each other's lives."
New City is one of the more visible signs of downtown's resurgence as a spiritual center since the 2002 opening of the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels.
New City started holding public services Feb. 10 in the Italian restaurant.
A nondenominational church with a contemporary worship style -- the Rev. Kevin Haah doubles as the church drummer -- New City just started renting space in another restaurant on 3rd Street in the Arts District. The church will mark its official opening Easter Sunday.
New City's goal is to be a community that "reflects Jesus' love and repeats his actions," said Leo Poveda, who teaches Sunday school."
At New City, we judge no one, because . . . we're more flawed and broken than we know -- yet more loved and accepted by God through Jesus Christ than we ever thought possible," said Haah, a 42-year-old Ivy League-educated attorney who gave up his partnership in a prestigious law firm to go into ministry. "We are a community of sinners living in God's grace."
Before founding New City, Haah was a pastor at Youngnak Presbyterian Church of Los Angeles. He did English-language ministry for the second-generation Korean Americans and their non-Korean spouses and friends. Youngnak commissioned Haah to start New City, but it is independent.
Veterinarian David Forster and his wife, Janet, and their two young children followed Haah from Youngnak, as have several others.
New City's approach is innovative. At a recent service, members talked about "doing life together." After the pastor's sermon, they broke into small groups to discuss the talk.
"It's relational; you actually get to know people," said Jude Tiersma Watson, a seminary professor and urban missionary. She especially liked the small group discussion.
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