Church pews filling up near Wall Street
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Scott Jagow: In this kind of economy, houses of worship might just have more visitors. The churches near Wall Street have definitely seen more people coming in lately. And some of the churches are using those economic fallout to pitch their message. Ashley Milne-Tyte has our story.
Ashley Milne-Tyte: Look up at the ornate exterior of St. Bartholomew’s Church in midtown, and you’ll notice a couple of posters. One features a photo of a trader, his hand clapped to his forehead. On another, an office worker peers worriedly at a computer screen. The posters are part of the church’s latest marketing campaign.
William Tully is the Rector of St. Bartholomew’s:
William Tully: Actually, we got a complaint from a parishioner who thought that they were too graphic and that we were exploiting the crisis. And she said, “When I look around the place that I work, I see people like that. I don’t want to come to church and see them.”
The message on the posters reads, “A church for these times.” Tully says St Bart’s just wants New Yorkers to know it understands what they’re going through — and that it can help. He says the move seemed fitting, given some of the church’s neighbors.
Tully: Two blocks one direction is the corporate headquarters of JP Morgan. Two blocks the other way, the corporate headquarters of Citigroup.
And in every direction, there are layoffs and fears for the future.
Tom Ehrich is St. Barts’s development director. He began to notice more foot traffic in September.
Tom Ehrich: We saw people coming into church, business people, men and women in suits, just sitting in the pews, some holding their heads in their hands. We had increased attendance at our midday Eucharist. And that has continued.
The darkened mood is also being felt downtown.
[Sound of a church organ]
At Trinity Church on Wall Street, the Reverend Mark Bozzuti-Jones says he’s seen people crying, praying, and seeking counsel.
Mark Bozzuti-Jones: I’ve one guy in particular, and I’m very moved by his story. He felt so overwhelmed that he was losing $2 million every two weeks for many of his clients.
That money manager was at one end of the scale. At the other he says are the office cleaners and nannies whose jobs depend on Wall Street money. He’s met with some laid-off workers who can no longer pay rent. He says he’s humbled every day by what he hears. Still:
Bozzuti-Jones: Finance is an intricate part of religion. And so I’m glad that, you know, as a religious person, I get to talk about how this financial crisis touches us at the core of who we are as human beings.
Even as his church helps some of the newly destitute feed their bodies as well as their souls.
In New York, I’m Ashley Milne-Tyte for Marketplace.
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