By Pastor Jeff Wells
Monday through Friday, the halls, stairwells, classrooms, and basketball court are alive with the joyful noise of children from City & Country School. Every Tuesday and Saturday morning, there is a line out the door and around the corner of people waiting to get in for the Hope for Our Neighbors in Need food program. Tuesday nights, the direct action group, Rise & Resist, fills the sanctuary, with voices proclaiming, cheering, laughing, and voting on ways to work for social justice. Tuesday and Saturday nights, the gymnasium resonates with the sounds of dozens of Country Dance members stomping to the beat of live string bands. Sundays are for worship! The host church sings songs of love, justice, and courage in the sanctuary starting at 10:30 am. The Forefront Church band fills the gym with praise beginning at 11:00, and the Village Deaf Church cranks the music up at 3:00 pm so the members can feel the vibrations. This is just a taste of the sights, sounds, and spirit at the Church of the Village every week.
The Church of the Village (COTV)—at the corner of 7th Avenue and 13th Street formed in 2005 as the consolidation of three United Methodist churches in lower Manhattan: The Church of All Nations on St. Mark’s Place, the Washington Square UMC on West 4th Street near the park, and Metropolitan Duane UMC which inhabited the building that is now COTV’s home. The Washington Square church, at 135 West 4th Street, was sold to provide an endowment for the new congregation. The regional body of the UMC owns the Church of All Nations building. COTV traces its lineage back to 1797 to the Duane Street Methodist Episcopal Church—the third Methodist congregation established in Manhattan. In the 1970s, Washington Square UMC boasted the first openly gay Protestant minister. In 1973, Metropolitan Duane hosted and then-pastor C. Edward Egan helped to found PFLAG (originally called “Parents of Gays”), which will celebrate its 45th anniversary at COTV on May 20.
The Church of the Village is a progressive, radically inclusive, anti-racist community. COTV is a vital and growing faith community. It is intentionally diverse at many levels, practicing extravagant hospitality in welcoming and affirming people of every color, nationality, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, physical and cognitive ability, and economic status. A very strong emphasis on social justice is part of the church’s ethos, focusing on LGBT rights, racism, poverty and homelessness, and COTV is not bound by tradition in the ways we worship and happily affirms that many roads and spiritual paths lead persons to God. The COTV community strives to build beloved community as it was advocated by Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and others—a gathering of persons in which all are welcome, everyone person is a beloved sibling, and every one is encouraged to discover their giftedness and belovedness.
Led by the pastoral staff of Jeff Wells, Ronneak M. Lee, and Jorge Lockward, COTV is active in the West Village and beyond through its Hope for Our Neighbors in Need (HNN) food program that provides food for over 750 persons every week. HNN is a leading emergency food program in New York City and is looked to by other programs and agencies, including Food Bank for New York, as a model for best practices. The Church of the Village is also an active member of the West 13th Street Alliance (block association) and works with other community organizations and with Council Speaker Corey Johnson’s office to address needs of the West Village community.