Monday 30th July

We seem to have done a lot since I last wrote as we had to pack our sight-seeing into fewer days than we had allowed. We have managed to fit in all the major sights … and got to church yesterday. Baptist churches in the USA vary a lot more than they do in the UK and I had chosen to visit a church that would be at the liberal end of the spectrum in America, but would not be too different from Dagnall Street. The Metro Church in the Hell’s Kitchen area of Mid-Town Manhattan is led by two pastors, Scott Stearman and Tiffany Triplett Henkel. As its name suggests, Hell’s Kitchen was one of the rougher neighbourhoods of New York and at one time it was home to poor immigrants from Ireland. Now, while still a little rough around the edges, it has become gentrified like many previously poorer areas of London.

The church is relatively new – it was founded in 1974 – but in its early days the area’s seediness was still very apparent. A Metro pamphlet published in the 1980s reads: “Homeless people down the block. Prostitutes on the corner. Crack dealers across the street. What a great place for a church.” Metro Church has a number of social action programmes that support children and adults from some of the poorer families who still live nearby. They are also close to Broadway and have an interest in the arts.

So it was that this last Sunday some of the talented actors in the congregation performed an excerpt from the play Agnes of God. This was part of a summer series called “Broadway, Bigotry and the Bible”. It was an unusual service, but extremely well done. Today I visited the pastor in his office and we had an interesting conversation about politics and faith. Once again, more of that later.

Brief animal update: some very bored looking horses were pulling tourists in buggies around Central Park yesterday.