What is Agora?
Walt Whitman once wrote about New York City, “This is the city, and I am one of the citizens. Whatever interests the rest interests me.” His words remind us that to be a citizen of NYC means caring about our neighbors and the issues that collectively shape us. And in a city as diverse, passionate, vibrant and influential as New York those issues shape not just our Upper West Side neighborhood but our nation and world.
In Greco-Roman times, the agora (or marketplace) was the hub of urban life — a center not only for commerce and trade, but also for the sharing of ideas. In the Bible, we find stories of the apostle Paul entering into conversations in the agora (Acts 17:17) to engage directly with the people of a city, demonstrating the relevance of Christianity in the Public Square and on the lives of its citizens.
Through an ongoing series of Agora conversations around topics that are important to New Yorkers, we hope that the W83 Ministry Center will become a place not only where people gather on Sundays for religious worship, but also a hub where the relevant and important issues of the day are being asked and discussed: What does it mean to be human? Do we have an overarching purpose? What does it mean to live the good life?
Yuval Levin, in his book The Fractured Republic argues that a healthy society requires a "multiplicity of problem solvers" coming together in the marketplace of ideas. As a church community committed to helping all people in this city flourish, we aim to be one of those voices in the public square by creating a safe space to enter into conversations about these big ideas that are friendly, respectful, humble, thoughtful, challenging and honoring — even and especially when the conversation includes differing opinions.
Join the conversation
We would be honored if you would join us in these conversations.
To receive information about upcoming Agora programs and events, click here.
If you have questions or would like to connect directly about any events or Agora in general, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Social Animals Documentary Screening
Thursday, December 13, 2018. What is life really like for the teenage stars of social media? We explored that question at the screening of the new documentary Social Animals, which traces the paths of a daredevil bridge-climber, an aspiring swimsuit model, and a midwestern girl-next-door as they seek love, acceptance, and fame on social media. The film was followed by a conversation between Redeemer Church's Jon Seale and Bethany Harper from the ad agency BBDO about what living more of our lives on social media means for all of us, based on the film the Austin Chronicle calls “a smart, cautionary tale.”
To learn more about Social Animals, click here.
The Common Rule
Monday, November 12, 2018. In his forthcoming book, The Common Rule - Habits of Purpose for an Age of Distraction, Justin Whitmel Earley argues that our most ordinary habits of attention have the most extraordinary impact on our souls. And it is precisely those ordinary habits of attention that are being rewired by a decade of smartphones. Justin proposes a new set of daily and weekly habits of purpose designed to cultivate souls in an age of screens. What if the most important parts of our life are the most invisible parts of our life? They are called habits. They are the thousand little actions we take every day that we don’t see because they are so normal, and yet they determine who we are and who we are becoming. In the words of Annie Dillard, “How we spend our days is how we spend our lives.”
To learn more about The Common Rule, click here.
Won't You Be My Neighbor? Documentary Screening
Friday, October 26, 2018. Agora featured a screening of 2018s breakout documentary, Won't You Be My Neighbor? For over thirty years, Fred Rogers, an unassuming minister, puppeteer, writer and producer was beamed daily into homes across America. In his beloved television program, Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, Fred and his cast of puppets and friends spoke directly to young children about some of life’s weightiest issues in a simple, direct fashion. There hadn’t been anything like Mr. Rogers on television before and there hasn’t been since. After the screening we held a reception of milk and cookies to indulge our inner children.
The Future of Penn Station
Wednesday, October 24, 2018. Justin Shubow, President of the National Civic Art Society and recent White House appointee to the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts, moderated a stimulating and thoughtful conversation with panelists about the need for transit and public spaces that are beautiful, functional and accessible for all, and specifically regarding Penn Station.
Panelists were Kevin Baker, contributing editor to Harper's and to The New Republic; Richard Cameron, principal designer at Atelier & Co.; Wally Rubin, District Manager of Manhattan's Community Board Five; Dani Simons, Vice President for Strategic Communications at the Regional Plan Association; and Samuel Turvey, Chairman of the Rebuild Penn Station Steering Committee.
To learn more about Rebuild Penn Station, click here.
To view a recording of the evening, click here.
The Alethea Project
Friday, October 12, 2018. Stranger in Paradise is a provocative and unique film experience exploring forced migration and immigration on a global scale through the lens of nonfiction filmmaking. After the film a panel discussion was led by Alissa Wilkinson, film critic and staff writer for Vox.com and the audience had the opportunity to ask questions about the making of the film.
To learn more about the Alethea Project, click here.
An Evening with Rachael Denhollander
Wednesday, September 12, 2018. A prominent advocate for abuse survivors, Rachael Denhollander has spurred national conversations about sexual abuse in athletics as well as in evangelical churches. We were honored to have her share her story and answer questions from the audience. She boldly challenge us to pursue justice in the face of adversity.
An Evening with Makoto Fujimura
Tuesday, May 22, 2018. Artist Makoto Fujimura pressed into the notion of patronage and culture care, and challenged us in our responsibility to engage in both. After the lecture, Makoto Fujimura was joined by Eva Ting to have a practical discussion on ways we can begin to ask the question, "How should we think about and participate in culture care?" Afterward, there was a reception where guests were able to continue the conversation and interract with our speaker.
Global Poverty and Local Advocacy: Seeing, Caring, Engaging
Thursday, October 19, 2017. Agora partnered with The ONE Campaign to host Michael Gerson of The Washington Post, Edith Jibunoh of the World Bank, and pastor emeritus Tim Kellor of Redeemer to engage in a conversation about global poverty — an issue that affects millions of peple worldwide. Following the discussion, attendees were able to continue the discussion at the reception where they were able to interract with our speakers and The ONE Campaign.
Dramatic Escape Screening
Monday, March 6, 2017. We partnered with Rehabilitation Through The Arts to show the documentary Dramatic Escape. It was a rich evening as we learned the powerful ways the arts are transforming the lives of men in Sing Sing Correctional Facility. After the screening RTA’s founder, a volunteer and two recently released program alumni joined David Bisgrove on stage for a panel discussion where they talked about RTA and its impact on their lives. At the reception following the panel, attendees made new connections with RTA alumni, staff and volunteers and continued meaningful conversations reflecting on the evening.
Thank you to everyone who joined us! We hope this and future Agora events will be opportunities to learn and become more engaged in the life of our city. Please visit the following links to learn more:
Rehabilitation Through The Arts: learn more about the work of RTA and purchase the film for download
Hope For New York: learn more about how to serve formerly incarcerated men and women