[goth-uh m, goh-thuh m for 1; got-uh m, goh-thuh m for 2] noun
1. a journalistic nickname for New York City.
2. an English village, proverbial for the foolishness of its inhabitants.
3. a nine month journey in public theology, worldivew, vocation, cultural transformation and spiritual formation
I can’t tell you how many people have cocked their head and asked, “Are you really calling it Gotham?” Between Gotham and Casket Empty, the year long study of the Bible I teach on Sunday mornings, people are going to think my bowties are a ruse and that a morbid, darker nature lies just beneath the surface.
While I will admit to a rapid appreciation for Batdad on Facebook (You have to check him out! Uncle Bob just started to appear as Robin and it’s hilarious…at least to this middle aged dad with children trapped in my domesticated bliss), we are using the term “The Gotham Fellowship” because our coaches and friends in New York City at Redeemer Presbyterian Church call their fellows program by such a name.
Certainly, we are contextualizing this inaugural element of the newly forming Center for Faith and Work in terms of content and format, but the name? Well, it’s cool. And it gets your attention.
In a more substantive way, the term Gotham speaks of the city, speaks of a city in darkness in need of Christ’s light, and speaks to the cacophony of voices in society. Allow me to explain.
Tim Keller, senior pastor at Redeemer Presbyterian Church, has made a convincing case for the Church to focus upon cities. He points out that, “…300 years ago, less than three percent of the world’s population lived in cities. Today, more than 50 percent of the world’s population lives in cities and the number is growing rapidly. It is estimated that eight million people, or about the population of Bangkok, move into cities every two months.” The Gotham Fellowship prepares disciples of Christ to minister in the city.
A Gotham Fellow takes a nine month journey at graduate school level rigour. We first look at worldviews, then the Gospel, and apply this to the nature of personal, communal and, finally, cultural renewal. A dark city gleams with the light of Christ by virtue of His people doing their work to His glory.
Finally, Gotham is aptly named because of the true origins of the term. Washington Irving, an early American journalist and satirist, referred to his home town of New York City as Gotham because of Gotham, Nottinghamshire, England. It literally means ‘goat home’ (got-ham). This village’s lore stated that the king was to pass by and the villagers feared the king’s wrath rather than his generosity. To keep the king from staying long, the people pretended to be possessed as goats and brayed. It worked. The king quickly passed by. Irving satirically suggested that his fellow New Yorkers were goats due to the diversity of opinion, ethnicities, trades, and faiths pouring into the burgeoning port of the new America.
Now, we don’t suggest Orlandoans are goats, but we do recognize the decreasing voice of the Christian, the rise of many other worldviews, and the need to speak into the cacophonous noise with clarity, conviction and love.
Join me, back here, each week as I unfold what we are learning, how it applies, and what the forming Center for Faith and Work hopes to accomplish.
Oh, and you have to check out Batdad. I so want to be Batdad.
This post is part of a series of reflections on leading the inaugural class of the Gotham Fellowship as part of First Presbyterian Church of Orlando’s Center for Faith and Work.