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New Yorkers Blow Off Steam at Church

Restaurants, happy hours, theater- these are some ways New Yorkers blow off steam. But after the election of Donald Trump, liberal-leaning churches have experienced New Yorkers singing a different tune to ease their troubles – Gospel Hymns.

KORTYKA: At Marble Collegiate Church in Midtown, hundreds gather for Holy week. Rainbow streamers flap in the wind on a fence outside of the church. The choir is dressed in purple robes and they have been practiced for weeks.

KORTYKA: The church is used to a large turn out -it has around 2200 members. But, Kim Sabastian Ryan, Director of Membership, says there was an increase in new members at a very particular time last year- in the fall, right around the election.

RYAN: I think it was a particularly grueling election for everybody. Particularly grueling political process. I think that drives people to church.

KORTYKA: Ryan noticed that the pews had been fuller – AND even live streaming services became more popular – drawing 10% more online worshippers. From October through January, the church gained more new members than it had the previous year. Ryan says parishioners were looking for guidance.

RYAN: People have questions, they wanted to hear what the minister has to say.

KORTYKA: Marble Collegiate calls itself a diverse and inclusive church. And other politically left-leaning churches across New York and the United States have also reported an increase in members. Brett Grainger teaches religion at Villanova. He says while it is too close to the election to get solid numbers- he isn’t surprised churches are reporting an early increase in attendance. This type of bump has a strong precedent.

GRAINGER: I think that certainly after the election of Ronald Reagan liberal churches saw an uptick in attendance.

KORTYKA: Grainger says this happened with other elections, as well – with Presidents Obama and Clinton. Back outside Marble Collegiate, Ralph Taylor is waiting to be let into the Good Friday Services on the steps. He says he also noticed an increase in attendance after the election. He says he turned to the church to find peace. And he isn’t surprised other members are doing the same.

TAYLOR: They don’t know what this man’s gonna do, I’ll tell you I don’t know what he’s going to do. I’ll tell you one thing, I didn’t vote for him.

KORTYKA: But, other church attendees aren’t so sure. Charles Sanchez says that politics haven’t inspired him to come become a member of the church. He’s there today because it’s Good Friday.

SANCHEZ: That wouldn’t be something I would really notice because I don’t come often enough. I only really come to formal church services like this a handful of times a year.

KORTYKA: Sabastian Ryan, the membership director says after the initial spike, attendance leveled out. But, she’s excited excited about the increase in attendance and hopes numbers stay up – for at least four more years. Lindsey Kortyka, Columbia Radio News.


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