Cold winds and rain did not stop pastors, elected officials, and other people of faith from gathering over a three-hour period Thursday in the Bronx to urge Mayor Michael Bloomberg to reverse the order by his Department of Education expelling all churches and other religious groups from meeting for worship services in the public schools after February 12. Mayor Bloomberg gave his annual State of the City speech at Morris High School in the Bronx (I don’t know whether a church meets there or not on Sunday mornings). People came and joined the rally throughout the three hours, alternatively praying, singing and listening to speakers who spoke through a bullhorn to the crowd. Approximately 200 gathered at the height of the rally. Approximately 43 crossed police lines to pray peacefully to draw attention to the unjust policy. The police arrested the 43 for disorderly conduct.
Here are some observations from yesterday’s rally:
Many are praying, fasting and crying out to God to allow their churches to remain in the schools. Many pastors are finding it difficult to find an affordable facility for their churches to meet. They are responding not only by the public rallies and letter writing to Mayor Bloomberg, but also by praying, fasting and asking for the Lord’s help. The New York Times reported on one those prayer meetings at Calvary Baptist Church in midtown Manhattan. Pastor Dimos Salebarrios of InfinityNY Church, whose church faced eviction from meeting in a Bronx housing project until the city relented the week before last, has been fasting since January 1. Many are feeling anew how dependent they are on the Lord as they realize that they may be meeting in people’s homes after February 12. They are looking to see the Lord move powerfully to protect them from this unjust policy.
The opposition to the anti-worship policy is bipartisan, multiracial, and across income lines. You only have to look at the photos of the rallies to see the myriad faces of people – Hispanic, black, Asian, white, etc. They span all income groups, with many poor people attending who see their local churches as the community where they find help, hope and guidance. A group of Hispanic pastors, all wearing matching white windbreakers came to the rally Thursday. People offered prayers in English and Spanish. The main leaders of the movement to repeal the ban is NYC Councilman (and pastor) Fernando Cabreras and Dimos Salaberrios. Assemblyman Nelson Castro has introduced the bill in the New York Legislature to prohibit policies like New York City’s policy prohibiting worship services. This is a broad-based movement with widespread support.
The opposition to the policy is growing nationally. The situation in New York City is drawing increasing attention by people nationally. I have done radio and TV interviews around the nation. Tony Perkins, leader of the Family Research Council, came to the rally on Wednesday. More and more church leaders, elected officials and others are calling to express their shock and opposition to New York City’s actions. We hope that many from around the nation will write, call and email Mayor Bloomberg, urging him to repeal the policy and allow the churches to stay.
There will be more rallies between now and February 12. Please continue to pray for the churches in New York City. And contact Mayor Bloomberg, urging him to repeal this policy.
This post originally appeared here.