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Services full of sorrow and also hope resumed online Sunday, a day after a historic Manhattan church was gutted by a raging fire.
Middle Collegiate Church’s Rev. Jacqui Lewis, PhD broke down in tears in a livestream as she grieved the church’s destruction and fondly reflected on the fond memories and important events that shaped the church’s inclusive congregation.
She was accompanied by more than a dozen choir members who serenaded grieving viewers from their apartments in a choreographed musical number on Zoom.
The East Village church was destroyed Saturday morning when a fire spread from an abandoned building next-door on East Seventh Street. It had been in two other Manhattan locations since 1729 and the church was built in 1892.
“We don’t know (why the fire started.) That’s being investigated. But I’m so sad about it. And I’m mad about it… Out of these ashes, out of our grief, something is going to emerge that will surprise and delight us,” preached Lewis, who promised the church would rebuild.
Pastor Amanda Hambrick Ashcroft told congregants she also had reason to be hopeful that the spirit of the church is alive and well in an emotional speech.
“Why this year? Why this church? God where are you? Then I saw you… rushing out of the windows out of every crevice onto the street. Weeping uncontrollably with us. The grief is a testimony to our love,” Ashcroft said.
Previously the church live-streamed services from inside the century-old Gothic Revival structure.
Church leaders discussed how members had held the community together through the AIDS crisis, and how it helped build and support a multiracial congregation that grew from 400 people to 1,400 under Rev. Wilson.
The vacant building previously caught fire in February, and the smoldering church is just steps away from the scene of a deadly explosion that rocked the neighborhood in 2015.
Two local residents told the Post they think the location “is cursed.”
The church’s tower is home to New York’s Liberty Bell, which tolled for the birth of the nation in 1776, and more recently sounds in remembrance of the Sept. 11 terror attacks.
It’s unclear if the bell survived the fire.
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