A Reflection on Middle Collegiate Church by Fr. Daniel
Many of you may have heard of the tragic fire that destroyed Middle Collegiate Church in New York City this past week (read Pastor Jacqui Lewis’ post here). Middle Church is the oldest continuously gathered congregation in America, dating from the earliest Dutch settlement on Manhattan. The church building was historic and beautiful, and its destruction leaves an immense hole in the neighborhood, to be sure. But in the aftermath of this profound loss I was struck by the response of one of the congregation’s members in particular.
Michael Mitchell reflected in a Facebook post (read it here) on how he had found Home at Middle Church 25 years ago. He found a place where everyone belonged, no matter who or how they were. That welcome uncovered and deepened his faith. “I am who I am because Middle Church welcomed me Home.” Michael recognized that while this physical home was destroyed, his spiritual home was still alive and well.
Michael’s story reminded me of so many stories I’ve heard throughout this parish over the past nine months. The truly open doors brought us in, the beauty of the space and the music held us and gave us a sacred space to open up more fully to the message preached and heard in a dozen different ways that God is in every face, and every moment of life, and that everyone and everything belongs — and then how that awareness over time comes to dwell more fully within us, and flow from us wherever we are.
It’s hard to fathom how painful it must be at this moment for Michael, Pastor Jacqui Lewis, and their congregation to lose their sacred space. I’m moved by the clarity of their commitment, as they hold their hope and loss at the same time. All of us are feeling our own deep losses during this time in so many ways, and I continue to pray for and give thanks for this same welling up of hope and commitment and deep embrace of our mission to be God’s radically open arms, both at the church doors when we are gathered again, and always wherever we live out our lives day by day. It is a precious gift to be a part of a community dedicated in this way, no matter what the season or condition of our lives.
As one of Middle Church’s members says at the end of Michael’s post: “Love is born again and again, even in this.”