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‘The Pastor Is In’ on West 96th Street

Posted on April 14, 2021 at 10:15 am by West Sider


Waiting for the pastor in entrance of 2nd Presbyterian Church.

By Susanne Beck

Like most sanctuaries in New York, the Second Presbyterian Church on West 96th Street, just off Central Park West, was forced to get its programming online when COVID-19 shut down the city past March.

But digital ministering wasn’t slicing it for the church’s interim pastor, Lindsay Borden — or more importantly, she felt, for her parish. When the climate turned warm previous summertime, she commenced to supply social gatherings for parishioners in the park on random Saturdays as a way to reconnect in a safe, socially distant way. Continue to, in holding with a church group pledge to access out to unaffiliated neighbors, she felt called to do far more.

“I was like, no 1 understands we are in this article,” she points out. “The church is not really closed. The constructing is shut. The church is still here. I desired to permit the neighborhood know that. And I also wished to enable the neighborhood know that we ended up imagining of them, you know, that we cared about them.”

So Reverend Borden, in her 60’s, turned to her early inventive coaching – in the theater (actor and director) and the large-close culinary arts – and improvised.

She is nevertheless not certain where by she got the idea, but in just weeks, “The Pastor is ‘In’” booth – the religious equivalent of Lucy Van Pelt’s own development – was born. By early August, Reverend Borden experienced stationed herself once a 7 days, in a chair by a little desk, on the sidewalk, just to the aspect the church’s vibrant red door. The indicator on the flip chart stated it all: the pastor was in and prayers were readily available for “$0”.

Reverend Borden thoroughly positioned her station to be as obvious as probable which was challenging specified the seemingly permanent scaffolding that has lined section of the block because she commenced her task in 2018. “It’s horrible,” she says about the undesirable shroud. “I imagine we now have the history for the longest scaffolding in New York Town. Until an individual is sitting down at a desk out entrance expressing the pastor is in, you just cannot notify!”

Several of those who stopped and took a seat next to the flipboard sign in the subsequent weeks were not element of the church’s 60-member congregation. They simply wanted to pray for good friends or family members or just in general – not shocking provided the tension that COVID had introduced into practically everyone’s life. “Sometimes I would sit there for an hour and no a person would halt,” Reverend Borden says. “I felt it did not issue. I was there. They would question for photographs. They would say thank you as they moved on. A single female waved and reported, ‘I’m Jewish!’ And I explained, ‘that’s alright. I’m nevertheless praying for you!’”

The booth stayed open, when a week, through Election Day. “I produced a place of currently being there the week ahead of the presidential election,” Reverend Borden describes. “People have been quite tense, and I felt that it was essential to be there.”

In the course of that time, most people questioned for prayers “for a good end result.” “I did not check with them what they meant by that,” the minister states. “But I believe I understood. And all those prayers worked apparently!” Reverend Borden recollects with gratification.

The booth was shut in the course of the winter season months – but only quickly. With the thermometer heading northward, Reverend Borden has returned to her sidewalk perch most Wednesday afternoons involving 3 and 5 p.m. She is psyched to be back, and to reconnect with the West Side neighborhood that passes by.

“It’s been crazy,” she claims now of the final 18 months. But along with her proverbial flock, she continues to be dedicated to achieving out to neighbors, to understanding their wants, and buoying their emotional life at this difficult time. A chair and an surprising invitation to cease and converse on West 96th could be just the way to begin.