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Part 8: The Making of the Postsecular City. The West Side story

What evangelical church options does Tammy have today? There are now over 200 options for an evangelical looking for a church home in Manhattan Center City. This number is over ten times the number of options that Tammy had in 1975.

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Trinity Grace's Christmas Eve Service is one of the 90 new Christmas services started by Manhattan evangelical churches in the last few years. Photo: courtesy Trinity Grace, edited.

What evangelical church options does Tammy have today?[1]

There are now over 200 options for an evangelical looking for a church home in Manhattan Center City. Over half of these churches cater to English-speaking professionals. This number is over ten times the number of options that Tammy had in 1975. And the number seems to be increasing.

The growth rate of evangelical church plants in Manhattan Center City increased in the late 1980s. Perhaps, the most significant church plant, Redeemer Presbyterian Church, started in 1989. The majority of evangelical churches in Manhattan today were founded in 1988 or latter. However, the church growth rate’s acceleration was most noticeable after September 11, 2001. Almost 40% of evangelical churches in Manhattan Center City were founded since 2000. In September and October 2009 one new evangelical church opened its doors for worship every Sunday.

Tammy decided to take a look at the changing options for evangelical church going in November 2010. She first visited Emmanuel Presbyterian Church in the Columbia University area. After a short stint at Redeemer Presbyterian Church, Charlie Drew left to help start the church in 2000. During his tumultuous years at Harvard, he turned to Christian apologist Francis Schaeffer who inspired a generation of young evangelicals in the 1960s and 1970s to think critically and appreciate culture. Today, his teaching reflects the influences the notable evangelical scholars and preachers Edmund Clowney, James Packer and John Stott. About 300 people gather at this church on Sundays. New Testament Missionary Fellowship now meets at the Lerner Hall Student Center on the Columbia campus.

For the Pentecostal inclined toward a gospel of prosperity, the famous South Los Angeles Crenshaw Center established an East Coast branch on West 96th Street. All Angel’s Episcopal Church on 80th Street is bursting at the seams and features a ministry to the homeless. Four blocks away, the Church of the Incarnation holds forth on behalf of the new conservative Anglican communion. The church is supporting a project to directly connect a farm to provide needy families with fresh produce.

In the same area The Journey Church opened in 2002 and now has four sites in the city and two sites in other states. It has about 1200 attenders on Sundays. The multi-sited church is a trend that started in Manhattan with Redeemer Presbyterian Church, which meets at three sites and has over a dozen affiliated churches in the city. Other multi-site evangelical churches in Manhattan include Trinity Grace, Remnant, Morning Star New York, Apostles, and Forefront. Tammy collected information about the culture of each site from attenders at Journey.

On West 57th Street Messianic believer David Epstein has helped to revitalize the relevance of Calvary Baptist. On the same street, the Lutherans have a revitalization going on at Church for All Nations. Tammy also stopped at Harvest Christian Fellowship which is a flourishing bit of Southern California without the sand on 56th Street. They still honor their Calvary Chapel roots by baptizing people on the beach (on the Jersey shore). Brazilian church planters are exceptionally busy in the city and have started Praise the Lord Ministry also on 57th Street.

Second generation Asian Americans have started Hallelujah, Joy and Vision Churches in the West midtown area.

The Church of Christ have planted churches all over the city, including a Manhattan church. There is also the ambitious sounding Empire City International Church of Christ on 45th Street.

Thousands have come for open air revival meetings sponsored by Times Square Church

If you want “screamingly good gospel music and "amen, reverend" worthy sermons all in a former Broadway theater” (as one blogger describes it), Times Square Church is a pretty good candidate. Morning Star New York with its Messianic Jewish pastor Ron Lewis have grown phenomenally with a focus on international missions.

Trinity Grace’s original site in the Chelsea area is flourishing and has expanded to four other sites on Manhattan. The church founder Jon Tyson at first tried a very counter-cultural approach, sporting tattoos, earing, punk garb, and sermons at a local bar. The church went by the mysterious name “Origins.” It attracted thirty people on a good day at the bar but stalled out as most people thought it was a lark to attend but not to stay. Tyson huddled with Redeemer church planters and subsequently changed course. He lost the earing and punk garb, and changed the name to the classical sounding Trinity Grace. He was also able to attract some of the best young pastoral talent from other parts of the country. The church has boomed and is struggling to handle the numbers. Tyson is an example of how Manhattan has become like a Silicon Valley of church planting: there is constant innovation; failure is not a shame; and start-ups are the norm.

Gallery Church is also in the Chelsea area and hosts an artistic crowd. Tammy also found some churches that are radically anti-church formality. The Gathering in Chelsea and the Church in NYC in the Gramercy Park area have been known to operate more like a flash mob that coalesces on a regular basis at different places.

Tammy looked over the newly formed Lower Manhattan Community Church which has a team of co-leaders that includes a young leader from Rick Warren’s church in southern California. Redeemer’s spinoff, The Village Church, and the revived Neighborhood Church feature artistic programs. A former Wall Street trader founded the Faith Exchange to teach about the ways to a prosperous life. Messiah’s Reformed Fellowship was founded on the very southern tip of Manhattan as a response to the 911 attacks. Tammy found that it features a warm fellowship and Calvinist teaching.


[1] Our methodology was first to assemble all known available lists of religious organizations in New York City. We also solicited expert opinion about new evangelical church plants from City to City, the church planting center of Redeemer Presbyterian Church, New York City Leadership Center and the Southern Baptist Metro Headquarters. Based on some preliminary census taking in the South Bronx, we concluded that our list was somewhere between 25-50% incomplete. Our methodology developed to travel down all 5,000 miles of our city's streets, every alleyway and quite a few hallways to map and photograph every religious site and to interview clergy and lay leaders at the sites. We developed a questionnaire for evangelical groups. We also used four exploratory questions with all groups for brief interviews. Finally, at some sites we drilled more deeply with either congregational surveys or qualitative interviews.  Between August 4 and September 17, 2009 we did a street by street census of Manhattan Center City. We found and visited 729 religious sites and 295 Protestant sites.  We hand delivered questionnaires to the 197 evangelical churches with follow-up emails and calls. 92 questionnaires were returned. In 2010 we continued to compile our list of evangelical churches and doing interviews.


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Next: Part 9: The Making of the Postsecular City. The East Side story

9 Responses to “Part 8: The Making of the Postsecular City. The West Side story” Leave a reply ›

  • Fascinating project. congrats.

  • Thanks. Our look is directly due to feedback from our readers. Our content is due to the many open doors that people have opened up for us.

    One small church in Fordham area of the Bronx in November invited us to interview everyone in the congregation, take pictures, then asked us to stay a moment at the church service so the whole church could pray over us. Almost no one spoke English, but the sister of the pastor turned out to be a professional translator and some other people helped our team to talk to every one. It was quite an experience.

  • I was exploring the website last night due to a Google alert I received about Joe Battaglia's article. The site is looking very nice. Impressive work you have done.

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