Opening Doors to The Greenwich Village Community

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[caption id=”attachment_2045″ align=”alignleft” width=”144″] Diverse group of ladies at a group AA Meeting.[/caption]

The call came to my cell phone early one afternoon. My cell phone number is on the church voice mail suggesting to film production companies, that if they want to rent the church for production purposes, to call me.

The call I received was not from a film production company, but from a gentleman seeking space for an AA group he was a member of. This was the start of a relationship with 12-Step groups that now number 15 in total.

I was concerned about the request due to the conservative nature of the church I pastor and its Board; however, I told the gentleman that I would get back to him. I had taken advanced courses in Pastoral Counseling at Blanton-Peale and one of the many courses dealt with addictions and the role pastors and churches must take in helping groups such as 12-Steps.

Space is very costly here in Greenwich Village, New York City where rents for a studio apartment can easily reach $4,000.00 per month for a space measuring 400 square feet.

Churches and Synagogues and other houses of worship are the only places that offer the kind of space and at a price that is affordable to most of these groups. The board was reluctant at first to grant them permission to use our space, but after suggesting that indeed, this was the ministry and sort of outreach that we must be involved with.

The board after some discussion approved this one group to start meeting in one of our rooms located in the church. The word soon got around that Manhattan Seventh-day Adventist Church was a welcoming place. Suddenly, another group phoned and wanted to meet with me.

Three middle-aged men came to that meeting, and shyly stated that they needed a place for their group to meet. They were familiar with Seventh-day Adventists and noted “We understand your church is a conservative church, by what we found on the web.” I agreed that indeed was the case, but my ministry is open to all.

One of the men then stated, I need to tell you that we are a Gay men’s AA group and wonder if you would still rent to us and allow us to meet at your church. I told him of course you can, I would just have to ask the board to see if they will allow one more group to use our venue.

The man literally grabbed my arm and tightly said “God bless you.” He seemed shocked that I said yes and told him his group would be welcomed. Personally I wasn’t really sure, but I didn’t tell him that. The board agreed finally and now this group is beyond thrilled to be here and have a new home where they can meet together.

After one year of working with the board and their getting comfortable with concerns about heating costs, room use etc. we now have 15 12-Step groups meeting at Historic Manhattan Seventh-day Adventist Church. I love it.

The groups are made up of several Alcoholic Anonymous or AA groups, a men’s LGBTQ group, a women’s only AA group, Al Anon groups, Adult Children of Alcoholics, Debtors Anonymous and a SCA or Sexually Compulsive Anonymous. These are all gifted, talented and bright individuals from all walks of life, and I consider them part of our ministry here in the Village.

Approximately 400 people from all the groups combined now call Historic Manhattan Seventh-day Adventist Church their home, and we are privileged to have them share the venue with us.

At Christmas we give a gift to each group designed by one of our Community Service leaders, filled with good food. The gift boxes are ready to be handed out to the five 12-Step groups that meet on our busiest night, Thursday nights.

Each group that received a gift box loved the gift and are universally happy to receive the gifts, an annual tradition now that we plan to continue for many years to come.

I would encourage all of our churches to open their doors to wonderful groups that could use the support. It adds clarity to ministry and is a true blessing to the church.

We thank God that we can share and keep our church operational from Sunday through Thursday and every one of these groups I fully consider part of our ministry to the community.

Tony Romeo, Executive Pastor