One bright autumn Sunday morning, I got up early to do a walking tour on my own of sites in lower Manhattan associated with Phoebe Palmer, the mother of holiness revivalism. I was hoping to visit the haunts of that remarkable woman of a century ago, whose impact on charismatic and Pentecostal revivalism has far outlasted her influence on Methodism.
I planned to end my walk at a yet-undecided church service. I knew intuitively that the Spirit would show me some fitting place to glorify God.
Manhattan is not religiously lifeless. It has a vital Catholic population, with ethnic churches everywhere. And the woman who in her time influenced the elections of Methodist bishops, Christian higher education, and women’s public roles is still expressing her influence through numerous small holiness fellowships in the Lower East Side.
I took off carrying rough notes for my probable trajectory: first the Pine street synagogue, which had once been a Methodist church. As three strangers got off the subway, I discovered that one of them was the person who had told me about this oldest Methodist church building in New York. He corrected me: not Pine, but Pitt Street near Broome. So I headed north.
I was looking for whatever remained of the Five Points Mission that Palmer was instrumental in beginning in 1848. The mission offered food, housing assistance, job training, and alcohol rehabilitation. Lincoln had stopped at the mission in 1860 to encourage down-and-outers to do their best.
As I walked toward Chinatown, I saw a sign in Chinese and English: the Chinese Methodist Church. Without pondering, I entered. Something told me unmistakably that this was where I belonged as a worshiper this morning.
A service in Chinese was going on. In the narthex, ...1
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