Middle Church Rebuilding Presentation & FAQ

On Sunday, May 15, 2022, Rev. Dr. Jacqui Lewis and members of the Middle team presented new information about the plans to rebuild our sanctuary on our historic site in the East Village—and the capital campaign that will take us there. Click below to watch a full recording:

We’ve also compiled the FAQ below, to help answer questions you may have about the project. If you have a question that isn’t covered in these materials, please email rising@middlechurch.org and we’ll get back to you soon! And click here to make a contribution to our rebuilding funds.

In the spring of 2022, after a year-long due diligence process, the Middle Collegiate Church Consistory voted ‘Yes’ to rebuild the church on the historic site in the East Village. The larger four-church Consistory of The Collegiate Churches of New York then reaffirmed that vote.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: How often will the congregation hear about the rebuilding process?

A: We will aim to have quarterly Congregational Meetings to share updates.

Q: How long will it take to rebuild the church?

A: We have begun our Capital Campaign to raise the funds needed outside of the insurance money to rebuild. We project the rebuilding process to take three years.

Q: Did Middle receive insurance money from the fire?

A: Yes, The Collegiate Churches of New York had a $21MM insurance policy on the property that was paid-out in full. The Consistory of The Collegiate Churches voted to pass the funds on to Middle Church for rebuilding.

Q: What is the status of the remaining sanctuary façade with the Landmarks Commission?

A: We are discussing various options with the Landmarks Commission to honor the history of our sanctuary while keeping this project affordable. The site is simply rubble, and therefore the elements that were “landmarked” do not fully exist. We’ll share more updates as we progress.

Q: What is the status of the neighboring lot (from which the fire started)?

A: The relationship with the owner has been very tenuous and we are in discussions through our legal teams to discern what the best outcome could be as “neighbors” for the future.

Q: Is Middle on pace to raise the annual budget this year?

A: In these two years since COVID-19 began (Mar 2020) and the fire (Dec 2020), we’ve raised:

  • $1.85MM for our Comprehensive Partnership Campaign (CPC)
    • $450K from 18 Foundations
  • $1.3MM toward Middle Rising
  • As of May 2022, we are at 80% of our annual congregation goal of the $1,050,000 for our fiscal year which ends June 30, 2022.
  • We have pledge commitments of an additional $108,250 by 6/30/22, along with $40,000 in program revenue due.
  • We have 322 active recurring donors in our system. 

Q: What is the need of the congregation to support the budget moving forward?

A: In early May we shared an email from the President of The Collegiate Churches announcing that starting in July 2022, each church will need to shift to funding 100% of their own budget — for Middle it is $2.2MM each year.

  • Beginning with the start of our Fiscal Year 2023 on 7/1/22, we plan to move into a “One Fund” structure to encompass our operations, programming and building needs for the next three years
    • Donors will have the option to designate use of funds, if so desired, as we continue to track as such within the One Fund, however unrestricted gifts will serve the greatest need in this time.

Q: Do you envision a reduction in staff given the budget constraints next year?

A: No, at this point Middle’s team is as lean as needed to do this work within our budget structure. We will still fill the open Clergy position and the rest of the team has shifted roles to cover our needs.

Q: How did Middle come to the decision to rebuild?

A: The Consistory and Rev. Jacqui have been on a journey since the fire on behalf of the congregation, listening to your voices all along the way. We hired a company to do a Feasibility Study to gauge our ability to raise funds, which Middle will need no matter how we decided to have a new site.

  • That first study showed an ability of this community and those who support our work to raise $20-30MM, with the largest passion from donors if we stayed in the East Village. (You also communicated that desire in two Congregational Meetings in 2021.)
  • Nonetheless, Middle explored three options: 
    • Rebuilding on site
    • Finding a place in lower Manhattan, East and West, to retrofit for a new center for our ministry
      • A broker searched hundreds of listings and we looked at several. There was nothing that fit our needs.
    • Joining another ministry—we explored one downtown and another uptown, our own West End Collegiate Church. Those did not prove to meet our needs.
      • Your Consistory wrestled with rebuilding; and ultimately voted yes. 
    • Since that vote, a team of experts has reviewed not only our rebuild plan BUT plans from each of the four Collegiate Churches to be sustainable in the long term given the financial catastrophe we experienced as a collegium. 
    • The consultants affirm our rebuilding idea and have made recommendations about how we might do so in a sustainable way.

Q: How will the Capital Campaign work?

A: We have entered the quiet phase of our Capital Campaign with consultants who fit well with us. We have interviewed 30 folks within our giving community to gauge our raise potential and begin pledge conversations—including conversations with foundations and potential large investors in this campaign, as well as our New York City Councilwoman, Carlina Rivera. 

  • Together with our consultants, we aim to finish our roughly $15MM campaign raise by December 2023, which will go along with the $16.5MM left in insurance and the $2MM we’ve already raised. 
  • Our goal is for everyone in the congregation to participate by December 2023 in the way that is right for them.

Q: What type of parameters will Middle have in terms of vetting foundation or corporate support (I.e. will Middle ensure donors match our values)?

A: Absolutely! We are very discerning on whom we apply to and/or what stipulations grant money has and will keep Middle’s Mission at the forefront of that.

Q: How many members does Middle currently have?

A: As of May 2022, we are a congregation of 2,025 members

  • Across 48 states within the U.S.
  • Across 20 countries in the world

Q: How are we describing the future site and how does the future site look?

A: Middle’s Capital Campaign will encompass three main initiatives:

I. Rebuilding a Site

Create Middle’s Center for Spirituality, Justice, and the Arts on the site of its historic 1892 former building that can support transformational ministry for centuries to come, featuring:

  • A multipurpose sanctuary to host and broadcast worship and conferences, and serve as performance space for artistic events and community gatherings.
  • A broadcast studio for programs and podcasts.
  • Classrooms, dream/play space for adults and children, a gallery, and an industrial. kitchen that can facilitate educational, spiritual, artistic, and feeding programs.
  • Collaborative working spaces for staff development and volunteer cultivation.

Middle’s Center will be a physical and digital hub for:

  • Worship, Concerts, and Theatre
  • Choirs, Dance, Writing, and Drama Programs
  • Justice Programs and Initiatives (Voting Rights, LGBTQIA+ Equality, Economic Justice, Antiracism and Black Lives Matter)
  • The Freedom School™ and a Reparations Center for Lenape and African American Thriving
  • Small Groups, Social Groups, Education, and Wellness Groups
  • New Member Gatherings
  • Book Studies, Religion Studies, and Conferences
  • Young Adult Groups
  • Children and Youth Programs
  • Volunteer Service Opportunities and Feeding Programs
  • Prayer, Pastoral Care, and Support Groups
  • Freedom Lab—Freedom Rising Conference, Freedom Rising Salons, Antiracism trainings, Young Adult Leadership Labs
  • Work, rehearsal, feeding, and gathering space for our neighbors

II. Reframing Christianity

Fully fund and advance Middle programs over the next three years to redefine what it means to be “church” today: 

Anti-racist, universalist, interfaith, post-denominational, and wildly inclusive—in which a just Love. Period. theology transcends boundaries to correct every injustice that stands against love. 

We reframe and reclaim “Christian” as a shared quest in which God’s people live authentically, loving themselves, their neighbors, and their world into healing. 

Middle programs will: 

  • Embolden our prophetic, transformative, and artistic worship that translates in both physical and digital spaces. 
  • Further develop rapid and sustained responses that enable us to dismantle racist, classist, sexist, cis-heteorist, and ethno-centrist systems of oppression, so we can heal the world.
  • Equip and grow our programming team to create relevant and timely educational tools that serve both secular and non-secular spaces.

These programs will enrich the lives of:

  • All the people in our global neighborhood, no matter where they live, who they love, how the look, or how they earn a living.
  • A diverse staff, board, and congregation with a womanist/feminist consciousness that includes Blacks, Hispanic/Latina, Indigenous, Asian Americans, and whites of all genders and sexualities as they work side by side, leading the nation in advancing social justice, ecological and economic justice, anti-racism, LGBTQIA+ and women’s causes locally and nationwide.

III. Repairing the World

Create expansive, world-repairing partnerships with foundations, non-profits, NGOs. and other institutions by rebranding our sister—The Middle Project—into Freedom Rising. 

This secular portal into the fierce love of Middle Church will expand our impact in the creation of a racially and culturally diverse society free of injustice by dismantling the barrier that “church” might generate with potential partners in the public square.

Draft Vision Statement 

Freedom Rising is an intergenerational laboratory for human development that uses tools from science, history, the social sciences, and the arts to create a just, generous, fully inclusive and antiracist society in which humans, creatures, and planet can survive and thrive—together. 

In the spirit of Ubuntu (a person is a person through other persons) and inspired by the Freedom Summer of 1964, Freedom Rising is an institute that creates educational events, convenes activists across disciplines, cultivates the arts and collaborates on an intersectional justice agenda toward healing the world. 

Freedom Rising will be the catalyst for diversified funding and transformational justice as it incubates non-profits (e.g. Strive to Rise) and “co-sponsors” our existing programs:

  • Conferences and trainings that deliver relevant and timely educational tools that equip leaders to change the world
  • Freedom Rising annual conference (nee Revolutionary Love Conference)
  • Young Adult Leadership Lab
  • Antiracism Trainings
  • JustArts program for teens
  • The Village Chorus for Children and Youth
  • JuneteenthNow mentoring programs

Governed by its own board, Freedom Rising will also partner with
Middle Church on the creation of:

  • The Freedom Lab and Reparations Center to address harm done to Indigenous and African American people by our ecclesiastical ancestors.
  • A Children’s Defense Fund Freedom Schools® site at Middle Church.

*The Children’s Defense Fund Freedom School® will ensure every child a healthy start, a head start, a fair start, a safe start and a moral start in life and successful passage to adulthood with the help of caring families and communities. Through piloted summer programs that began in 2021, and a targeted opening in summer, 2024 the school will provide summer and after-school enrichment through a research-based and multicultural program model that supports K-12 scholars and their families through five essential components: high quality academic and character-building enrichment; parent and family involvement; civic engagement and social action; intergenerational servant leadership development; and nutrition, health and mental health. 

Feel free to email RISING@MIDDLECHURCH.ORG for any additional questions