We’re all Ryans.
What Todd Brewer and the Ryans of NYC can teach us about the unchosen bonds of the family of God.
If your name isn’t Ryan — or, I suppose, some variation of the spelling — then you weren’t invited to a recent shindig in Lower Manhattan. As Alyson Krueger recently wrote for the New York Times, this exclusive soirée was put together for “Ryans only.” What began as a small monthly meetup quickly turned into a viral hangout, as Ryans from across the country congregated at Ryan Maguire’s Bar & Restaurant to meet other Ryans and discuss “BIG and IMPORTANT Ryan Topics.” Whatever those pressing issues might’ve been, this obscure event is intriguing for how it was viewed by the Ryans who attended. Alyson writes:
Ryans looking to expand their networks were pleasantly surprised by the diversity of the crowd.
“So many different types of people are going to be here, because the only thing they have in common is their name,” said Ryan Fuchs, 34, who lives in Stony Brook, N.Y., and works in ophthalmology.
“A gathering where we all just have our name in common — it’s the most random, obscure, silly thing,” he said. “I mean, we are all wearing the exact same name tag. What more can you ask for?”
It might seem silly for a newspaper to profile a party that sounds more like a social experiment than anything else. But the rhetoric of the Ryans at this “Ryans Only Party” is, I think, indicative of what it looks like to belong to a church. Lest you think that the height of overreach, let me offer you this conclusive paragraph from Todd Brewer in a piece he wrote for Mockingbird, “The Sunday Morning Social Club”:
Church is less like a circle of likeminded friends, and more the unchosen bonds of family. United by their common need, the young and old, rich and poor, come together in worship to hear again the old story of a crucified Savior whose grace exceeds their frailty, failures, and loss. Because unlike anywhere else, church is a place where sinners find forgiveness, the downtrodden can find hope, and the lonely can find comfort in a God who never leaves them.
Going to church is often fraught with all manner of ill-conceived notions and presuppositions, with opinions on its polity and structure ranging from the democratic to the autocratic and everything in between. These differences of opinion, which often make the church so broken, are also what make the church so beautiful. When you step over the threshold along with your fellow churchgoer, there’s no telling how many walks of life are represented. The gathering of the church is like that — it’s a kaleidoscope of proclivities and preferences all sitting under the auspices of one Word. Like the Ryans of Manhattan, all that those gathered for church have in common is their name.
As you sit in the pew next to carpenters and plumbers and business owners and stay-at-home moms, you do so wearing the exact same name tag — one that reads, Forgiven. You don’t get to choose who’s there and who’s not. The Shepherd of this soirée has decided that forgiveness is the only ticket for entry. And he’s made the price point free. This is what makes the church so remarkable — namely, that its members are feckless sinners who are desperate for pardon. And when we gather under one roof and sing “And Can It Be,” that’s all that we are. We’re Ryans who’ve been given the same name tag. We’re the broken and bruised who’ve been made whole by the blood of the Lamb. We are forgiven.