July 9, 2018 @ 05:15 pm by Christina Fleming
My experience in that first worship was like no other I have experienced in my lifetime of church-going. —Patrick Love
Patrick Love shares why he partners with Middle Church. To join our movement, click here.
Good morning! My name is Patrick Love and I first visited this church less than a year ago.
Almost two years ago, I moved to the city after my younger child went off to college. I began a quest to find a liberal, progressive church to attend. While I was searching, something unexpected happened. A new president started at the New York Institute of Technology where I was a Vice President and in my first face-to-face meeting with him he let me go. This occurred last June.
I walked into this church last August. In fact, it was Jacqui's last service before heading out for a two-week vacation. Lucky me! At about the same time, I was offered a one-year job as Executive-in-Residence at Bowling Green State University in Ohio, which I accepted. It involved driving out to Bowling Green every other week (that's 583 miles each way in case you were wondering).
My experience in that first worship was like no other I have experienced in my lifetime of church-going. The place was packed. It was a diverse, energetic, and enthusiastic congregation. The music and singing was spectacular. There was applause and three standing ovations. Two for singing performances and one for Jacqui's sermon. Now, I have attended church my entire life and that was the first time I heard applause after a sermon! I was hooked!
The commute made it difficult to get involved other than Sundays. Yet, worship and this community sustained me throughout a difficult year. Being a member helped me feel a part of the efforts to serve the community and to resist and protest the relentless attacks on human and humane values.
This summer, I have been able to participate more in the life of the church and some of the actions we are taking for social justice. The highlight was the road trip to and from D.C. with Gloria, Lars, and Marte to participate in the Poor People's Campaign.
I was just offered a Vice Presidency at Springfield College in Massachusetts. I start in early August. Though I am sad to be leaving NYC and this physical community, I am happy and excited for my new job, and I will be joining the virtual community online.
While the past year has been a challenge for me, I am a person of privilege who had been able to save a nest egg to sustain me through this time. Plus, I did have a job out in Ohio to help bridge me to this point. I have just informed the Middle leadership team that I will be making a substantial gift to the church, part of which will go to the digital ministry project. I will also continue my recurring monthly donation. Continuing to support this community is important to me.
Every week members of the congregation speak about their experiences and ask members to support the work of the church. Thank you all for every gift you make to Middle; it matters! To the more affluent among us, let’s up our game. These are difficult times Middle Church needs more of our support. This year taught me that I could live on a lot less than I thought, and to use my resources in this movement for justice is a great investment. I also encourage you to actively contribute in other ways, such as through volunteer activities here in the church and out in the community. And if you have not, join Middle. See the staff at the pulpit here after worship, to find out how easy it is to do all of this, and you can also join on line!
And this fall when Jacqui encourages you to wave to the online attendees, you'll be waving to me. Thank you!
June 8, 2018 @ 02:45 pm by Christina Fleming
My name is Sierra and this is my Middle Church story.
The first time I came into this sanctuary was in January, 2002. From 9/11 to that Sunday, I’d been a volunteer Red Cross chaplain working near the pit at Ground Zero with survivors and residents of the World Trade Center bombings. It was an honor, but it was hard. Everyone was in a state of shock. We were all exhausted and facing our own demons. Every few days I prayerfully swept up the grey dust on the roof outside my window, dust that was actually the pulverized remains of 3,000 spirits and the towers. And I took a couple of buckets of them to the Hudson River and set them free with a prayer. They were holy, the whole city was holy ground.
And this part of the city was under siege. No transportation, food or newspaper deliveries, and, in some cases, no phones or electricity. We had to show ID to come back below 14th street if we ventured Uptown in search of supplies and friends. and the smoke and smell of the smoldering towers permeated everything.
I had been an actively spiritual person for 40 years and an interfaith minister for 20 years. But, my circle of friends lived uptown, I was on my own physically. I had spiritual resources and tools, but I needed community.
One day, I came through the doors of Middle Church and took a deep breath. The space was filled with light and beauty and open welcoming faces. I was immediately home. I had entered a true sanctuary.
Within weeks I was traveling to DC with Peace Talks. Middle people with agency and determination to keep us out of Bush’s war. Non-violent communication training and writing groups all were helping us all
start the long healing process. That fall I joined the Gospel Choir and found joy again. I decided to become a member, after all Middle was giving me a lot, was rescuing me.
At first a put a little money in the collection bags. Overtime I increased it a little bit and started writing checks instead of the loose change and bills. I began to feel better and some ownership. I started writing small
checks. A few years ago I started writing $2 for Butterfly on the check memo line.
I’m on a very limited fixed income. I juggle my expenses every day. What is more important today, which expense is a must. This month honoring the monetary needs of Middle is at the top of my juggle list. This place where I have experienced and witnessed so much healing and growth needs our financial support. What more can I do? I think of Luke and the story of the woman who lost one of her 10 coins and who searched diligently until she found it. She rejoiced when she could meet her budget.
In order to support our ministries, we were asked to contribute $625,000 toward our $2M budget. We still need to raise $50,000 by the end of the month. Because we are diverse, there are a few deep pockets in our congregation; but most of us have very tight budgets.
Middle needs each of us to help her to find that lost coin. I am asking those of us with very tight budgets to search our resources and stretch our giving through some sacrifice in the coming weeks. In small increments, we can make a difference. You and I can make a difference, and increase our partnership in this place.
You are all beautiful, loved and every time you act in Middle's name, it is a prayer. I am praying blessings for you as you help us meet the bold challenges before us, as you help us power revolutionary love. Thank you!
March 29, 2018 @ 04:00 pm by Christina Fleming
Do you love the Message for All Ages? Do you love worship at Middle Church? Perhaps it’s our worship music, its different genres, the band, and both choirs. Our focus of social justice and race in Rob’s prayers. Jacqui’s badass preaching.
Now, imagine you did not have this multi-sensory, spirit-rocking, breathe-freely, earth-shattering worship in your life every week . . . how would that be for you?
We risk losing some of this amazing worship experience if we don’t meet our offering goal this year. Middle Church spends $335,000 on worship, and a great amount of staff time writing sermons, planning, choreographing, and arranging these phenomenal experiences just for you. We need to raise $210,000 by June 30 to keep all of this amazing exprience.
How can we do it? On any given Sunday we have a total of 500 worshippers at both worship celebrations and online. Right now, we have 61 recurring givers. We want all 500 to be recurring givers! If you sign up online as a recurring giver, you can support the worship you love every week without having to worry about forgetting your checkbook. Those mornings when you decide to sleep in? Your recurring donation will still power worship for the Middle family you love and who need this experience.
I am asking—no, pleading—each of you to give $40 per week for the next 15 weeks. Some of you cannot give that amount and some of you can give more. Some of you may have to give up your $15 glass of wine with dinner two or three times a week—this worship is worth it! Middle is worth it, and Middle is Middle because of you. YOU are worth it. $40 per week.
March 14, 2018 @ 04:00 pm by Christina Fleming
"Middle Collegiate Church is my church. It's really like an extended family... I have been loved and supported and found my place here." -Jonah Carter Smith
Consider making a donation today to support youth programs like those Jonah describes below.
My name is Jonah Carter Smith and I am 17 years old and a junior in high school. Middle Collegiate Church is my church.
I was 7 weeks old—my mom and I had just been placed together—when I had my first Sunday here. It was Easter. When I was little, I used to ask my Mom to tell me the story of my first Sunday here over, and over, and over—how she was nervous that I would cry but I slept through the entire thing, even though we were seated right next to the drums. I love that story! I have been coming here ever since that Sunday.
Middle Church is really like an extended family. I’ve grown up here. There are so many great things about this place. First, the people—Jacqui, John, Tina, Marte—all of these people have affected me greatly and played a big role in my life.
I have been in the children’s chorus for as long as I can remember. John and Tina have taught me about music and made me feel like I could do anything if I worked at it. For example, I never thought I would sing a solo but I actually had the chance to sing with the gospel choir when I was just eleven (my voice was higher then).
Some of my earliest and favorite memories were my chats with Jacqui. Before the church was remodeled, I used to run from Sunday School to Jacqui’s office before church started. I always seemed to have a lot on my mind as a little guy and I was curious about the things that were happening in the world. Even though she was busy, she would take the time to answer my questions.
I attend Youth in the Middle here as well. Marte is great and teaches us about the Bible. She also organizes great activities like taking the teens bowling and to see the Black Panther film.
I have been able to help with communion and read scripture, and they even played some of the music I created during the passing of the peace a few times, which made me feel incredibly proud. A couple of years ago, my mom and I went down to Georgia and Alabama with people from church. We went to Martin Luther King’s boyhood home, the King Center, the Rosa Parks Museum, walked across the Edmund Pettis Bridge in Selma and even got to see John Lewis from a distance. It was amazing and inspiring. Last year, I attended parts of the Revolutionary Love Conference. I have been and continue to be a part of so much while growing up here.
This church has taught me many life lessons. It has grown my faith and knowledge of the Bible. Middle has helped me develop leadership skills and hopefully helped me become a positive role model—all because I know I am loved and valued here. This community has helped me build my confidence—something I’ve struggled with outside of these walls. This place gives me hope in these dark times. I’ve learned about social justice and standing up for freedom and the rights of all people.
I have been loved and supported and found my place here. What this church does for children and young adults is so important but doesn’t happen without your help. We need your support to keep all of these programs going strong. I can’t imagine not having this church in my life and I want other kids to have that chance too. And just like I found my community and my support here, I know each of you can too. There’s a place for everyone.
Please volunteer and give financially what you can, when you can, so we can spread love and justice to more and more people.
March 6, 2018 @ 12:00 pm by Christina Fleming
Not long after relocating to New York City in the wake of the horrific Japanese earthquake and tsunami of 2011, Kaede Helck found herself 'broken', and in search of a home away from home. She came to Middle Church in August of that year after visiting a number of churches in the city. Listen to her story of what Middle Church means to Kaede, and the ways she gives back.
"Middle has become my home away from home," Kaede says. "I am very grateful to know that my family here at Middle is on standby, ready to support when there is a need. Middle is always there. "
Like many, Kaede's story is one of connections, #RevolutionaryLove, and of giving back. Your financial gifts will ensure that Middle Church is always there, ready to help when there is need. Donate today.
June 27, 2016 @ 04:05 pm by Christina Fleming
June 20, 2016 @ 04:01 pm by Daniel Kessel
The 2016 Pride March is right around the corner! Today we are sharing photos of the Middle Church Jerriese Johnson Gospel Choir wearing orange for 2014 Pride.
#30DaysofPride #Day20 #NYCPride #Loveisloveislove
June 19, 2016 @ 03:42 pm by Daniel Kessel
We highlight today's worship service, in which members of the Middle Church community read the names of the victims of Orlando and remembered those who died one year ago in Mother Emanuel Church in Charleston. We lit candles, and sang, and prayed, and wept, and we resolved ourselves to chase away hatred with #RevolutionaryLove.
Photo credit: Lola Flash
#30DaysofPride #Day19 #SayTheirNames #Loveisloveislove
June 18, 2016 @ 03:32 pm by Daniel Kessel
Save the date! On Wednesday, June 22 at 7pm at Pub Theology: Queer + Christian, we will talk about spirituality and sexuality, and ask questions like "How does the Bible affirm queer people?" and "What's up with Leviticus anyway?" RSVP here.
June 17, 2016 @ 03:10 pm by Daniel Kessel
For #Day17 of #30DaysofPride, read the email that was sent to the Middle Church community in our weekly e-blast. The message celebrates all LGBTQI individuals and outlines how our faith community prepares for continued welcome and safety.
"And then I think about our Middle Church community—that part inside our sanctuary and the part in our networks. And the rock in my stomach, the cry in my throat—the rock feels a little lighter, my tears fall, not just because I am sad and angry, but also because you are so beautiful.
"Your consistory and I are clear—this violence and hatred against LGBTQI communities is not acceptable. Not on our watch."
To sign up for the weekly e-blast, click here.
June 16, 2016 @ 03:07 pm by Daniel Kessel
Jacqui Lewis and Jim Kast-Keat recorded "One," a new episode of the That'll Preach podcast discussing how Middle is responding to the Orlando tragedy as a community. To hear the full podcast, click here.
#30DaysofPride #Day16 #Loveisloveislove
June 15, 2016 @ 02:58 pm by Daniel Kessel
On #Day15 of #30DaysofPride, the blog “If We’re the Ones We’re Waiting For, We Best Get To It” by Jacqui Lewis was published on Auburn Voices. The blog counters the violence in Orlando with Revolutionary Love. Read the full blog here.
"They think their hatred is powerful, their violence decisive, that their acts of terror will terrorize us. True, these violent acts are frightening. But we are stronger than fear. We are stronger than hatred. We have the real power, love power."
June 14, 2016 @ 02:50 pm by Daniel Kessel
After the violence in Orlando, The Rev. Dr. Jacqui Lewis performed this rap, inspired by the song "Glory" from the movie Selma, during worship and shared the following words. To watch the rap, click below.
"'Glory' is my new national anthem. It is like scripture to me. It makes me think about race, about gender, about sexuality, about faith, and about how these are gifts from God. To be celebrated. That one day, when the Glory comes, we will all cherish these differences. Behold the intersections and marvel at the complications. Delight in the unique ways we see the world, and lavish love on one another. So much love as to cancel out the hatred. And the suffering will end. And the Glory of God will shine on all of creation. Right here on earth."
#30DaysofPride #Day14 #LoveIsLoveIsLove
June 13, 2016 @ 02:04 pm by Daniel Kessel
On Monday, June 13, Jacqui Lewis, Middle Church member Tituss Burgess, and many interfaith clergy and leaders read the names of those killed in Orlando—49 of our LGBTQ brothers and sisters. Thousands of New Yorkers gathered at the Stonewall Inn Vigil to honor the many young lives lost. To see the video posted to Mayor Bill de Blasio's Facebook page, click here.
#30DaysofPride #Day13 #LoveIsLoveIsLove
June 12, 2016 @ 12:43 pm by Jacqui Lewis
What do interracial and same-sex marriage have in common? Both are protected rights in our nation thanks to a decision by the Supreme Court. Today we celebrate Loving Day, the 49th anniversary of the Supreme Court decision Loving v. Virginia, which made it legal for interracial couples to wed on June 12, 1967. Read senior minister Jacqui Lewis's illuminating meditation on the intersections of interracial and same-sex marriage.
June 11, 2016 @ 11:12 am by Daniel Kessel
Save the Date! Washington Heights Got Talent is a Pride Month celebration on Friday, June 17 at 7pm. Our own Middle Players will present a section of their original comedy, "I Am Bob."
June 10, 2016 @ 11:44 am by Daniel Kessel
Black, white, Muslim, gay, straight, queer—thanks to you, Middle Church marches for Love. Period.
June 9, 2016 @ 05:12 pm by Daniel Kessel
We are family! Today, we share this video from the 2014 Pride March, where Middle sings the famous Sister Sledge song, "We Are Family."
June 8, 2016 @ 01:37 pm by Daniel Kessel
On July 24, 2011, gay marriage was legalized in the state of New York. The next day, the New York Times published this video, in which Jacqui Lewis appears (minute 2:28) speaking on behalf of gay marriage.
June 7, 2016 @ 11:29 am by Daniel Kessel
For Day 7 of #30DaysofPride, we share this image of love from our 2011 Marriage Equality Concert.
June 6, 2016 @ 03:07 pm by Jacqui Lewis
For #30DaysofPride, Day 6, we're sharing The Rev. Dr. Jacqui Lewis's words advocating for same-sex marriage in the Ocotober 2012 Essence magazine article, “Same-Sex Marriage: Two Pastors, Two Perspectives.”
Jacqui writes, "To withhold civil rights from gays is, to me, unconscionable."
To download the full article, click here.
June 5, 2016 @ 05:59 pm by Daniel Kessel
It's Day 5 of #30DaysofPride! Check out this photo from Pride Sunday 2013. Our congregation marches for Love. Period.
June 4, 2016 @ 06:01 pm by Jacqui Lewis
Today is Day 4 of #30DaysofPride, and we're inviting you to save the date! On Wednesday, June 15, our own Chad Tanaka Pack and Ann Kansfield will speak at the Collegiate Pride WeWo.
For a complete listing of Middle's June 2016 Pride events, click here.
June 3, 2016 @ 05:57 pm by Jacqui Lewis
For Day 3 of #30DaysofPride, we're sharing this photo from our Marriage Equality Concert in June 2011.
June 2, 2016 @ 04:17 pm by Jacqui Lewis
For #30DaysofPride, Day 2, The Rev. Dr. Jacqui Lewis shares her experience reading Leviticus and how she came to conclude that the Bible is all about "Love. PERIOD."
It was January 1990, my first semester at Princeton Seminary. Our campus was buzzing with protests and demonstrations about gay. New to theological conversations, my first question was, “What does the Bible say?”
And the answer came back, “Abomination.”
“Where?” I stammered, “And what does that mean?” “Look it up,” I was commanded, and directed to the King James translation.
May 27, 2016 @ 04:24 pm by Daniel Kessel
At Middle Church, we're celebrating Pride Month with #30DaysofPride. Each day in June, we're sharing a unique way Middle has shown up for Love and Justice—for all people—out in the world.
Today, we celebrate Middle Church youth taking Pride to the streets at the 2014 Pride March. This photo originally appeared in Gothamist.
Stay tuned for more #30DaysofPride!
December 31, 2015 @ 01:17 pm by Daniel Kessel
On a recent Sunday at Middle Church, member Kelly told the touching story of how she came to adopt her son, Jonah.
"About 14 and a half years ago, I was looking into adoption, and I had been told I'd be waiting at least a year. 'That's okay, I'm young,' I thought.
"And I got a call about three days later, 'Could you take a baby?' And I was like, 'Yeah!' On Maundy Thursday 2001, the most beautiful seven-and-a-half-week-old, eight-and-a-half-pound baby was put in my arms. After three days of no sleep, and basically being in complete and utter shock at how my life had changed, there was no place that next Sunday morning that I wanted to be more than at Middle Church.
"We sat near the front on the right side--if you've been here on Easter it's packed and crazy--and I got here on time but not early with my baby, Jonah.
"We sat right next to the trumpets and the piano and I thought, 'Okay, this is going to be a disaster.' And he slept the whole time.
"At one point, we prayed and I can still remember these giant tears were just coming out of my eyes and falling on him and falling on me. And to this day, I don't know who it was, but I felt a hand reach out and just pat me gently on the back. And I thought, 'This is it. This is where I want to be. This is my family, this is my new family, and we are all family.' And we've been here ever since.
"To this day, when things happen in the world—after the Eric Garner non-indictment, after Trayvon Martin, after George Zimmerman's acquittal, after all these things—there is nowhere on those Sundays that I want to be other than Middle, and there's nowhere that I want Jonah to be other than Middle.
"When we first joined, there was a utility closet off the Sanctuary that was used as the nursery. On Sunday morning, they would clear out the dangerous stuff and put a crib in there. I used to think, 'Oh my gosh, if my social worker ever showed up, Jonah might not be my child anymore.' You can see the amazing things that have changed in 14 years. We have a beautiful childcare center. We have programs for children and youth.
"Jonah has basically done every program Middle has ever offered. We're here all the time. We're so grateful to John Del Cueto for the amazing work that he does. Jonah adds, 'Don¹t forget Jacqui, don't forget Jacqui!' So shout out to Jacqui Lewis.
"There are so many amazing things that have happened here for kids. That being said, like any family, I think there are always things we could be doing more. There are so many kids who need to know the love and acceptance of Middle. We're given so many negative messages about what it means to be a person of faith in this world, and I really look to Jim Kast-Keat and the folks here at Middle to help me raise Jonah in a way that he understands the truth about his faith and the love and the acceptance and the inclusion. And there's so much we can still be doing in that way.
"What can you do? You can contribute to Middle Church and support the programs offered to youth. If you have children, if you know children, if you're touched by children, you know how important this is. Think about the children in your life and the many ways they can benefit from a place like this, and just give what you can to help that continue and grow. Thank you."
Kelly has been attending Middle Church for 18 years and a member for about 15 years and serves on the Stewardship team. To see a video of Kelly telling this story at Middle Church, click here.
December 17, 2015 @ 05:45 pm by Daniel Kessel
“I grew up singing in the church, and then I was excommunicated and publicly shamed when I was 13, and I have not sung in a church since until right now," Sophia said after singing “You’re My Joy” last Sunday in worship.
Watch this video until the end to see Sophia’s moving words:
Sophia grew up in a Puerto Rican Pentecostal Church in the South Bronx. As a smart, articulate girl, she believed she would one day grow up to become a preacher.
“I used to always ask a lot of hard questions,” she said. “The pastor hated me for that. He really didn’t like me at all. He was also machismo and sexist.”
When Sophia was 13 years old, a 15-year-old girlfriend framed her for something she didn’t do. “I didn’t smoke pot, but I was with this girl when pot was being smoked. And she told her mother and the pastor that I was the bad influence. And everyone quickly believed it because of how independent and headstrong I was.”
Confronted by the pastor, Sophia went along with the older girl’s story. “I thought, What would Jesus do?” Sophia remembers. Her membership was revoked in front of the entire congregation, and she was excommunicated from her church.
“And so I left and became a sinner, [laughter], like any good Pentecostal should [more laughter],” Sophia said. And she also went on to become a successful singer and performer.
Singing at Middle Collegiate Church on December 13, 2015, was the first time Sophia sang in a church since she was 13 years old.
“I’m just going to sing this song to God. And that’s why I never made eye contact with the congregation. Because that’s a beautiful song with beautiful lyrics with a beautiful melody. That was healing.”
December 9, 2015 @ 12:28 pm by Daniel Kessel
"Singing with the choir makes me feel happy and perfect," said Dominick.
Dominick is growing up at Middle Church surrounded by your love and our children's programming. Your stories of faith and your dedication to justice guide how he sees the world around him and how he views himself.
He’s an active member of our Village Chorus for Children & Youth, and he participates in the children’s activities including The Ark and the weekly Message for All Ages during worship.
Your giving allows DJ and other children to grow up in a faith community that honors all paths to God and is dedicated to those on the margins. Donate here.
November 20, 2015 @ 01:53 pm by Jacqui Lewis
“I started to panic as I became aware of my breathing. The presence of God filled my heart telling me to do the thing that I feared the most. The voice was telling me to let go of my fear.
“Fear, for a variety of reasons, has been ever-present through most of my life. Flashbacks to several personal encounters with the police flooded my mind. I had forgotten how fear and anger had sustained me in complacency, protected me with invisibility and made content with passivity.
“The more I resisted God’s unrelenting encouragement, the louder the message became. If you don’t do it now, you never will. And then I did it. I surrendered, and exhaled.
“Something special had happened. I realized that my life was changed, and as we sang I had to hold back the tears. Yes, as a Black man, my life does matter.”
– Jonathan Lucas, Middle member
In response to the killing of Eric Garner and the black lives taken in the hands of police, Middle members, staff, and interfaith allies at Bend the Arc and Auburn Seminary staged a die-in on the floor of a packed Capitol Hill cafeteria during the lunch hour on January 21, 2015.
These excerpts are from an essay consistory member Jonathan Lucas wrote about his experience of the die-in. To read his full essay go here.
Through your activism and your financial gifts, Middle Church stands for racial justice.
Your gifts power our multiracial congregation and stand for #BlackLivesMatter. Help change the conversation around race—donate now.
November 12, 2015 @ 05:45 pm by Christina Fleming
Photos by Damon Winters for The New York Times
Graham Bridgeman, one of our board members, and J Mase III, an activist and slam poet, preached and led worship at the 2014 Transgender Awareness Sunday celebration. The New York Times contacted Middle Church and asked both Bridgeman and J Mase to submit video essays to complement a week-long series on Transgender rights earlier this year. Watch J Mase's video here and Graham's video here.
Andrew Rosenthal, who oversees the opinion pages at The New York Times, credited the series as having the greatest editorial impact:
“Our series on transgender rights was instrumental in persuading the Pentagon to lift the ban on transgender men and women serving openly in uniform."
Graham, J Mase, and Middle Church were a part of this historic series.
Support our LGBT ministries and our voice for LGBT equality–donate now.
About This Blog
You make such a difference in so many lives! Here are their stories.