The Bowery Mission

The Bowery Mission is on the lower eastside of Manhattan. It is near the World Trade Center. I don’t know how close it was to the WTC and if it is in existence today. This is the Mission where Fanny Crosby supposedly played for a portion of her career. I think she had a ministry there if my understanding is correct. Hector took us to the Mission. It was set-up for us to go there, have a meal, take a tour of the facility, ask the main guy some questions and then hold a service. The BM was in a seedy side of town. I remember one time stepping out the door of the mission onto the sidewalk and there was a naked pornographic woman picture right at the door to where you had to step on it. It hit you immediately. I suspected someone planted it there to “trip up” the folks that came out of the Mission. I don’t know. Porn was so prevalent in certain places and situations that it is hard to tell if it was planted or just the way things were in the city.

We went in and they gave us an immediate tour. It was a dengy kind of place. It was very old. There were multiple floors. I think he showed us a piano supposedly played by Crosby. We sat at a large table that was situated right behind the stage. I didn’t know it at the time, but when we got up to walk through a doorway we were right on the stage facing the congregation. We ate the meal and the main guy gave a presentation of the mission. I think he was also trying to solicit support for the mission. We were cautious because if I remember correctly they didn’t use the King James Bible and that was a sign that we didn’t want to become too involved with these people.

We finished the meal and then moved through the passageway and stepped on the back of the stage. The people were already ready. The auditorium was divided into two parts. Facing the crowd, the mission workers were on the right and dressed all in white. They were predominately African-American. The left side were street people and I couldn’t tell if they were black, white, Italian, Asian or what. They were unbelievably dirty. We were about 4 feet or more above floor level. We were in coats and ties and pressed white shirts. We were dressed to the religious nines. There was congregational singing w/piano accompaniment. The Mission workers began singing, swaying and worshipping like black people, very soulful. It was one of the most incredible experiences I had ever had. It was surreal. It was deeply spiritual. I engaged God. They were swaying and clapping and singing to God. I was stoic and glancing from left to right. They were black and the other side of the room was dirty. I glanced down the line looking at my very white brothers to see if anyone was tipping their hand so to speak. My friend Shannon was crying. He was overcome. I stepped out of the line and walked down to Shannon. I hugged him and told him that we were 860 miles from home and nobody would know about it; go ahead and loosen your tie and get into it. I took my tie and coat off, rolled up my starched white sleeves and began to clap, sway and cry like a baby.

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