EAST VILLAGE, Manhattan — Congregants of an East Village church held their first Mass on Sunday since a fire gutted the historic Second Avenue building.
Members and leaders of the Middle Collegiate Church gathered virtually to worship and grieve.
The church was destroyed in an early morning fire on Saturday that started in a nearby vacant building before quickly spreading, according to fire officials.
Rev. Jacqui Lewis, the senior minister with the church, told PIX11 on Saturday the congregation is devastated but resolute.
“We are gutted, our building is gutted. We are sad, we are crestfallen but we are here. No one died, thanks be to God and we’re not going anywhere, the fire will not stop our revolutionary love,” she said.
Built in 1892, the church is part of the Lower East Side Historic District. It’s also home to New York’s Liberty Bell, which rang in 1776 in celebration of the nation’s independence from British rule.
The congregation itself dates to the settlement of the city in the 1620s.
While the church has a long history, its message is contemporary, progressive and inclusive. Middle Collegiate supports social causes like the Black Lives Matter movement and welcomes all religions, races and sexual orientations.
Some of the 1,400 members of the church gathered in a virtual service Saturday night, praying that at least part of the church building, including the liberty bell, can be saved.
Mayor Bill de Blasio, meanwhile, has vowed to help the church rebuild.
“Middle Collegiate is such an icon of the East Village. I can’t count the number of times I walked past it and took in its humble beauty,” de Blasio said on Saturday.