Austin church lives faith in new ways

August 18, 2007

Vox Veniae is a mostly Asian faith community that emerged from Liquid, a college ministry at Austin Chinese Church in North Austin. Vox Veniae (Latin for Voice of Grace) members tend to be college students and young professionals who want to view their Sunday worship services as an opportunity to refuel for the week when they continue to live their faith, and they were one of several churches featured in this Austin American-Statesman article, Austin’s ’emergent’ Christians finding a new path: Groups slipping away from traditional churches to express their faith in other ways ::

Gideon and Karen Tsang prayed for a year before deciding to sell their spacious North Austin home and move into a modest 800-square-foot house in an East Austin neighborhood.

The couple and their two boys, ages 7 and 3, left higher-rated schools and a lower crime rate. They had to sell nearly all of their furniture because it wouldn’t fit into the new house.

But they were pretty sure this is what Jesus wanted them to do.

“We feel the path of Christ is not in upward mobility; it’s in downward,” Gideon Tsang said.

The son of a Chinese missionary, Tsang, 33, grew up in Canada, attended an evangelical seminary in Illinois and eventually landed at Austin Chinese Church — a North Austin congregation made up mostly of immigrants from China, Hong Kong and Taiwan — where he led a ministry for college students called Liquid. That grew into Vox Veniae, which formed last year with a core of middle-class students and young professionals who, like Tsang, longed “to be the hands and feet of Christ in Austin.”

Vox members have now bought or are renting six homes in the predominantly black and Hispanic neighborhood, driven by a desire to share their resources by living among people who have less. Vox members hope to set up computer training classes, teach kids to build bikes and work as mentors in nearby public schools.

“It’s all grace,” Tsang said. “What we receive, we now have to give back.”

The Tsangs and their friends are among thousands of young Christians around the country and abroad who are re-examining what it means to follow Jesus and changing not only how they worship, but also how they live.

They say they are paring down the Gospel message to what they see as essential and challenging the definition of church. Following Christ, they say, is not about building bricks-and-mortar sanctuaries but seeing the world outside church walls as God’s sanctuary.

“It’s not that the church meeting on Sunday isn’t sacred,” said Evan Wilson, a 20-year-old Vox Veniae member, “but that everything we do is sacred.”

Read the full article to see photos and other churches trying new ways to express their faith. Also see video feature of Vox Veniae and 2 other Austin churches.

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