We are not proud of all of our story, but it is ours. Our church story begins when Dutch settlers came to Manahatta — Island of Hills — and met (not discovered) the Lenape people living here. In 1626, we bought their land for about $24. We were not fair in our dealings with them. Some of our earliest clergy owned slaves.
At the 400th anniversary of Henry Hudson’s arrival in Manhattan, the Collegiate (Old English for Collegial) Churches of New York apologized to the descendants of the Lenape:
As the “company church” of the Dutch West Indies Company that made New Amsterdam a “company town,” Collegiate Church, speaking only for itself, wishes to acknowledge publicly the role it played in the cultural marginalization and physical dispersion of the Native Americans living here, slowly degrading them (in European eyes) from a people with their own culture and civilization to merely another resource. (Read more at Intersections.org.)
We cannot walk away from this legacy of chattel slavery and indigenous genocide, but we can think about what it means to begin to repair their present legacies. Our Reparations Task Force is currently meeting to better understand our history, so we can figure out the most just ways to move forward. And, we're willing to put our money where our mouths are: This year we dedicated 10% of our budget to Black Lives Matter programming, and to Cancel Rent/Cancel Mortgage Grants that will help keep people in their homes.
Middle Collegiate Church is the oldest congregation of the Collegiate Churches of New York. Organized in 1628, the Collegiate Churches of New York is the oldest continuously-active church and the oldest corporation in the North America, established by royal charter from King William III of England in 1696.
In 1729 the first Middle Collegiate Church was built on Nassau Street between Cedar and Liberty. As the population moved north in Manhattan, Middle Church moved to meet the need. The second sanctuary was erected at Lafayette Place and 4th Street in 1839. Our current sanctuary at 7th Street and 2nd Avenue was built in 1892, received a major renovation in the late 1990s, and further updates in the 2010s. Our sanctuary houses a collection of more than a dozen artificially-lit Tiffany windows and our social hall features a large Tiffany skylight dome.
Our history has been integrally linked to many key historical events throughout American history. Our bell tower is the home to New York’s Liberty Bell, which rang in the birth of our country on July 9, 1776. It has rung for the inauguration and death of every American President. It also rings during momentous New York City events, including remembering the attacks on 9/11.
We are rooted in our history, which we can't escape, but stand boldly at the forefront of progressive theological discourse and interfaith dialogue. We are one of the leading multicultural, multiracial congregations in the United States and stand firmly for LGBTIQA+ equality, including marriage equality. We are anti-racist and believe firmly in the power of women to heal our world. We believe everyone should have enough resources to survive and thrive.
The Collegiate Churches of New York are co-affiliated with the United Church of Christ and the Reformed Church in America. For more information on The Collegiate Churches of New York visit collegiatechurch.org.