NEW YORK (AP) – A historic lower Manhattan church that houses New York’s Liberty Bell and whose congregation dates back to the city’s earliest days was destroyed by a massive fire early Saturday that caused flames to burst through the roof.
The Middle Collegiate Church in the East Village burned before dawn after a fire spread from a vacant five-story building adjacent to the church at around 5 a.m.
“We are devastated. We are emptied as our building is emptied; our hearts are crushed as our doors are crushed, ”said Reverend Jacqueline J. Lewis. “But we know how to be the church, and we know that God is God, yesterday, today, and tomorrow.”
City council member Carlina Rivera tweeted that no injuries had been reported.
Built in 1892, the church is home to New York’s oldest congregation of collegiate churches, which dates back to the island’s Dutch colonization in the 1620s, according to the church’s website.
Middle Collegiate Church has been in two other locations in Manhattan since 1729.
The steeple is home to New York’s Liberty Bell, which rung to mark the nation’s birth in 1776 and has since been rung for the inaugurations and deaths of U.S. presidents and events such as remembrance of the 9/11 attacks, according to the church.
Lewis believed the bell had survived the fire, but was not sure. Minister of the Church Amanda Ashcraft told WABC that the Tiffany stained glass windows were gone.
The fate of the church building is unclear, Lewis said, but the ministry will continue.
“Our church has been worshiping digitally since March 15,” Lewis said. “And that’s what we’ll do tomorrow.
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