Pilgrimage marks 1-year anniversary of East Village church fire

EAST VILLAGE, Manhattan (WABC) -- A pilgrimage was made through Manhattan Sunday to mark one year since an historic East Village church was destroyed by a fire.

The Middle Church congregation marched from their temporary home at Calvary Episcopal Church on 21st Street and Park Avenue South to the ruins of their sanctuary at 7th Street and Second Avenue in the East Village.

The ceremony kicked off with a sermon at Calvary by Rev. Dr. Jacqui Lewis, followed by a procession through the streets with freedom songs and Christmas carols.


"If we don't sit in our grief and don't acknowledge our pain, it's not as easy to heal," Lewis said.

Once they reached the sanctuary, Rev. Lewis finished her sermon and the congregation celebrated with communion.

"Look at everyone, they are happy to see one another and isn't that what church and community is about," worshipper Dorie Hagler said.

The six-alarm blaze that gutted the church on December 5, 2020, was built in 1892.

The fire started next door at a vacant building where electrical work was being done.

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FDNY officials say the 6-alarm fire began on the first floor of a 5-story vacant building at East Seventh Street in the East Village around 5 a.m.


The site had been linked to several key events in American history.

In early October, services resumed with an outdoor celebration in the shadows of what was left of the building.
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Kemberly Richardson reoprts on a big day for the Middle Collegiate Church



As for rebuilding ... that's a challenge. Rev. Lewis tells Eyewitness News the person who wins the land where the fire started, will not allow crews to access the lot where the church once stood.

The only way in is through the facade, and it's not sitting well with many members of this congregation.

"This was really shoddy workmanship being done that night and caused the loss of a true, irreplaceable treasure," worshipper Anthony Donovan said.

By the end of the year, they'll find out whether this can once again be home base. If not, they're committed to staying in this community.

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