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EAST VILLAGE, Manhattan – Hundreds of parishioners gathered at a temporary church on Sunday to mark the first anniversary of a six-alarm fire that destroyed Middle Collegiate Church.
The church closed its doors to the community on March 12, 2020 due to statewide COVID restrictions. Then a fire ravaged the nearly 130-year-old church in December 2020.
Community members brought flowers, photographs and maps to place along the construction fence.
“We are gathered here because we are family,” said Rev. Jacqui Lewis. “We love each other and we need each other.”
The historic building also housed New York’s Liberty Bell, now temporarily housed by the Historical Society until the church was rebuilt.
“My sons were baptized here and I’ve been a member for some 20 years,” church member Adrienne Hurd told PIX11 News. “And it’s just to see a church here that looks like a New York City with all kinds of people and you feel loved and supported and that’s what we need.”
Many saw a rainbow over the church spire as a sign of rebirth and renewal.
“The middle church is a spiritual home,” church minister Amanda Hambrick Ashcraft told PIX11 News. “It is a response to the hatred and vitriol that we see in the world.”
The congregation has grown by 500 members since the fire. Many have said that it is the community and not the church building that matters.
“The middle church is the inspiration. It’s the grounding, ”Charles Randolph-Wright, a parishioner from Middle Church, told PIX11 News. “It’s a foundation that has that, especially during the pandemic, to have this community, this love, it helps us to continue.”
Correction: The quote from the last quote has been updated.