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‘We are burned but not destroyed’: Middle Collegiate minister vows church will rise, rebuild

On Saturday, a week after Middle Collegiate Church was gutted by raging flames, Reverend Jacqui Lewis, the church’s senior minister, issued an update in the wake of the devastating fire.

The blaze’s origin has been determined to be electrical, having started in the building that stood next door, Lewis said.

Excavator vehicles on Thursday working on the demolition of 116 Second Ave., where the disastrous fire started. The wall standing at left, with the arch in it, reportedly must be taken down. (Photo by The Village Sun)

As for the historic church, at Second Ave. and E. Seventh St., its famed Liberty Bell remains, but must be assessed for damage. However, the eastern wall of the church’s sanctuary must come down.

Reverend Lewis’s update to the church community:

Dear Middle Family:

It’s been one week since a fire took down our sanctuary. The Fire Marshal has concluded their investigation, but we do not yet have the official written report. What we’ve been told is: It has been confirmed that the fire originated in the building to our north and the cause was electrical in nature. We will have more to say to our community and to the press once we see the official report. In the meantime, we offer prayers of thanksgiving that there were no fatalities.

We’re grateful to the FDNY for their fine work in this case, and for the collaboration between the NYPD, the Department of Buildings and all the agencies and entities who are helping us move through this difficult time. We’ve been sustained by the love, prayers and support that have come to us from across the nation and around the world. Truly we are a church whose community includes the globe; thank you, we love you, too.

As a further update: The demolition of the building to the north is complete; our sanctuary debris is being cleared right now. The east wall of the sanctuary (the one in which the “dove” window lived) has to come down in order to stabilize the site. Our facade is still standing, and the Liberty Bell remains in the north tower. It has been viewed through the slats in the tower, but we don’t know its condition. We’ll let you know when we do.

Our movement of love and justice is more important than ever. We are burned but not destroyed; we’ve been gutted but we will rise. To help us as we recover, rise and rebuild, go to And, share our story here.

If anyone has photos or information about anything regarding the fire, Middle Church would like to know about it. Please contact Rev. Amanda at

In this season of Advent, please join us for worship tomorrow at 11:45 a.m. EST at

In just love,


  1. Frank Morales Frank Morales December 18, 2020

    Anyone know who owns building ? And if they’ve issued any statement?

  2. Les Cerqueux Les Cerqueux December 14, 2020

    I am thinking the exact same thing. The electricity should have been turned off in the abandoned building from the first fire. As usual, we are never told the truth. If Con Edison made an error in not shutting it off, they will never admit it. If the fire was caused by homeless people squatting in the building, the government will never admit its negligence in not providing for the homeless. And, if it was arson…the religious community who support the owners of the abandoned building will never admit it.

    • John Gray John Gray December 15, 2020

      NYC is spending tons of $$$ to put homeless in luxury hotels. Do you live in a cave? How is this the government’s fault?

    • Linda Linda December 16, 2020

      my friend told me there were squatters in the one building because she said she always wondered why she saw lights inside the abandoned building, in the top floor.

      • Linda Linda December 16, 2020

        PS: But there were also workers in the building when the fire started. But one wonders why there is not fire equipment available for when a fire starts so it can be extinguished immediately.

        • Patricia Melvin Patricia Melvin December 17, 2020

          Linda’s comment puzzled me. Workers in the building at 5 a.m.? Really?

  3. Esmerelda Esmerelda December 13, 2020

    Wondering, if the building was abandoned and there was a fire in Feb –
    where did the electricity come from ?

    • Frank morales Frank morales December 18, 2020

      Yes I’ve same concern … Con Ed would cut power from the street …

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