Historic Center Collegiate Church in New York Metropolis destroyed in a six-alarm hearth

NEW YORK (RNS) – An early morning fire in Manhattan’s East Village has destroyed the 128-year-old shrine of Middle Collegiate Church, one of the city’s oldest parishes.

According to reports from The Gothamist, nearly 200 firefighters worked to put out the fire in a slow drizzle. There was no loss of life in the fire.

The six-alarm fire began on the first floor of a nearby five-story vacant apartment building on East Seventh Street in the East Village around 5 a.m. before the church was lit, FDNY officials told local ABC news reporters. The roof of the church was on fire at 6 a.m.

The apartment building was reportedly empty due to an earlier fire in February.

“Unfortunately it seems to be pretty bad – the sanctuary is not in good shape and we have some lovely Tiffany stained glass windows that have disappeared,” Middle Collegiate Church minister Amanda Ashcraft told local reporters. “Terribly sad day for our community and for this neighborhood.”

In 2008, the church installed a Marshall & Ogletree digital organ, developed in collaboration with then organist Cameron Carpenter, and considered one of the best of its kind.

The Middle Collegiate Church, under the direction of Rev. Jacqueline J. Lewis, dates back to the Reformed Dutch Church, which formed parishes in the New York area in the 17th century. Founded in 1729, Middle Collegiate, also known simply as Middle Church, is the oldest of the city’s four collegiate churches, including Marble Collegiate Church on Fifth Avenue, where Rev. Norman Vincent Peale pastored for decades.

According to the church’s website, the Middle Collegiate moved to the East Village in 1892.

“We are devastated and depressed that our beloved physical shrine in Middle Collegiate Church burned down,” Rev. Lewis said in a statement to RNS. “And yet no fire can stop revolutionary love.”

The Church, which describes itself as “multicultural, multiethnic and fully inclusive”, is known for its strong views on social justice, particularly when it comes to racial justice and LGBTQ issues.

“We know that God does not cause these kinds of tragedies, but is present with us and us as we mourn in the hugs and prayers of loved ones,” said Lewis. The Church, she said, will continue to meet digitally, as it has been since March, due to COVID-19 security measures.

“We pray for the first responders. We pray for our neighbors who are also affected by this fire. And we covet your prayers while we mourn. “

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