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EAST VILLAGE, Manhattan — Hundreds of parishioners gathered Sunday at a temporary church on 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 because of statewide COVID restrictions. Then a fire ravaged the nearly 130-year-old church in December of 2020.

Members of the community brought flowers, photographs, and cards  to place along the construction fence.

“We are gathered here because we are family,” Rev. Jacqui Lewis said. “We love each other and we need each other.”

The historic building had also been home to New York’s Liberty Bell, now temporarily housed at the Historical Society until the church rebuilds.

“My sons were baptized here and I’ve been a member for 20 something years,” Adrienne Hurd, a church member, told PIX11 News. “And it’s just seeing a church here that looks like a New York City with every kind of person and you feel loved and supported and that’s what we need.”

Many saw a rainbow above the church spire as a sign of rebirth and renewal.

“Middle Church is a spiritual home,” Amanda Hambrick Ashcraft, a minister at the church, told PIX11 News. “It is a response to the hate and vitriol we see in the world.”

The congregation has grown by 500 members since the fire. Many said it’s the community and not the church building that matters.

“Middle church is inspiration. It’s grounding,” Charles Randolph-Wright, a Middle Church parishioner told PIX11 News. “It’s a foundation having this, especially during the pandemic, to have this community, this love, it helps us to keep going.”

Correction: The citation for the last quote has been updated.