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Church Housing Liberty Bell Gutted by Fire

Middle Collegiate Church in New York City burns before dawn
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Dec 5, 2020 10:30 AM CST
Fire Guts Church Housing the Liberty Bell
Firefighters work to extinguish a fire erupted from the building next to Middle Collegiate Church on Saturday, Dec. 5, 2020 in New York.   (AP Photo/Yuki Iwamura)

A historic church in lower Manhattan that houses New York's Liberty Bell and whose congregation dates to the city's earliest days was gutted by a massive fire early Saturday that sent flames shooting through the roof, the AP reports. The Middle Collegiate Church in the East Village burned before dawn after a fire spread from a five-story vacant building adjacent to the church around 5am. Flames shot from the roof and the church's stately front window glowed from the conflagration inside. "We are devastated. We are gutted like our building is gutted; our hearts are crushed like our doors are crushed," said the Rev. Jacqueline J. Lewis. "But we know how to be the church, and we know that God is God, yesterday, today and tomorrow."

City Council member Carlina Rivera said no injuries were reported. Built in 1892, the church is home to the oldest congregation of the Collegiate Churches of New York, which date to the Dutch settlement of the island in the 1620s, according to the church's website. The Middle Collegiate Church had been in two other locations in Manhattan since 1729. The bell tower houses New York's Liberty Bell, which pealed to mark the birth of the nation in 1776 and has since been rung for the inaugurations and deaths of American presidents and events such as remembrance of the Sept. 11 attacks. Lewis believed the bell survived the fire but was not certain. Church minister Amanda Ashcraft told WABC the Tiffany stained glass windows were gone. The fate of the church building is unclear, Lewis said.

(More fire stories.)

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