Historic Manhattan church devastated by fire welcomes back parishioners


EAST VILLAGE, Manhattan — Middle Collegiate Church, first closed by the pandemic and then by a devastating fire, welcomed back parishioners Sunday at a prayer service.

Hundreds returned for the first time since March of 2020. Church member Jonathan Lucas was there with other members of the tight-knit congregation.

“It just goes back to something that we always knew that our church is just more than a building,” Lucas said. “Our church is in our congregation and all that love that we try to bring into the world.”

The church closed its doors to the community on March 12, 2020 because of statewide COVID restrictions. Then a fire ravaged the nearly 130-year-old church in December of 2020.

The historic site was home to New York’s Liberty Bell, which rang in 1776 in celebration of the nation’s independence from British rule. The artifact, along with the steeple, were salvaged from the fire. 

Now Senior Minister Rev. Dr. Jacqui Lewis says it’s about moving on and forward

“We are trying to figure out what our next steps are in terms of rebuilding and how we can stay in our neighborhood,” Lewis said.

The community has really come together to support the church, Executive Minister Amanda Hambrick Ashcraft said.

“We really really appreciate that because this rebuilding process is going to be long,” she said.

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