“A friend of mine [had] come to worship once or twice, and somebody said to her, ‘Oh, St. Lydia’s, that’s like the hipster church,’” Pastor Emily Scott laughed. “She was like, ‘That’s not what I just went to at all.’ It really doesn’t come across as a place where cool people hang out.”
You’d be forgiven for assuming that St. Lydia’s, tucked into the Gowanus neighborhood of Brooklyn, is a church for hipsters. The 1,000-square-foot congregation is a co-working space for freelancers by day. The regular Sunday and Monday night services are staged as dinner parties. By Scott’s own description, a lot of early career writers and creative types attend, and the church actively draws on the “beauty culture” of Brooklyn.
But much of what happens at dinner church is counter-cultural, Scott argued in a phone interview. For one thing, there aren’t many places in New York where people can have dinner parties—only the rich people tend to have apartments that can fit multi-leaf dining-room tables. The environment is designed to be the opposite of the typical, anonymous New York experience, full of jammed subway rides and crowded streets, she said.
But most of all, it’s hyper earnest. “We are a space that is very sincere, and we’re not snarky, and nobody is playing like a too-cool-for-school competition,” Scott said. “That’s kind of a huge reality of a younger person in a place like Brooklyn. There is a kind of game people play about who measures up and how. … It can be a painful experience, trying to navigate that sort of world.”