SOME HISTORY OF THE FOUNDING OF THE NEW YORK CONGREGATION
The founding of the New York congregation in Advent 1948 marked the beginning of the work of The Christian Community on the North American continent.
Following excerpts by Rev. Alfred Heidenreich
‘As the culmination of ten weeks of intense and concentrated activity the founding of the Christian Community in North America took place during the weekend of December 11th and 12th, 1948.
It became clear within a short time of exploring this possibility, that we should never make more than a passing impression if we did not at once establish a visible permanent center, which meant a house where we could create our own atmosphere and where a permanent address would provide a firm anchorage amidst the rapids and whirlpools of the fast flowing river of American life.
The holding of services and lectures in a rented hall was a great problem. Rev. Hegg (the first resident priest to work in NYC) had taken a room for Sunday mornings and Thursday evenings at the Steinway Hall. This building serves on the ground floor some thirty musical studios, which are rented out by the hour for various purposes, mainly for musical practice. In spite of assurances that the Sunday mornings would be quiet, we were usually enveloped in a chaos of contending musical displays. Above our heads someone played the piano without intermission, to our left a soprano practiced scales, reaching out for the highest obtainable notes; to our right a tenor bellowed the prologue to Pagliacci; others could be heard further afield. On Thursday evenings musical events were less prominent, but street noises threatened to drown the voice of the lecturer, fleets of lustily hooting taxicabs and police cars, ambulances or fire trucks passing by at intervals with sirens roaring and screaming.
It was astonishing and moving to discover that in spite of all this distraction a varying and growing audience responded to the lectures, and in particular the Act of Consecration seemed to have no difficulty at all in taking its place among people, and indeed the whole atmosphere of New York.’
View of our city block W 74th Street and Riverside Drive in 1948 with Schwab Mansion, torn down in 1950
Rev. Heidenreich was at the time responsible for Great Britain and acted as a member of the Circle of Seven, the leadership organ for The Christian Community worldwide. He was instrumental in obtaining the building and wrote later: ‘Nothing but the unshakable faith that we were doing the right thing for the Movement, kept us going. Finally the laying of the Foundation Stone on Saturday, December 11th was a very beautiful festival. The Foundation Stone was a beautiful Pentagon-Dodecahedron of hand-beaten copper. Made by one of our friends with the signs of the Zodiac hammered into its twelve sides. The sign of the Waterman was left on the open lid. The Foundation document written on parchment said, ‘that this house, 309 West 74th Street in New York City, shall henceforth be known as the Christian Community House in New York’ and continues to describe its purpose in some detail. Then follow mottos and signatures by Rev. Werner Hegg and myself, by three trustees and three members and a friend and finally by the General Secretary of the Anthroposophical Society in America who together with the officers and the council of the society, and many individual members has followed the founding of The Christian Community with warm support and much generous help. It is indeed one of the happiest factors in the whole picture that there are the brightest prospects for a harmonious and successful co-operation with the Anthroposophical Society and its institutions. On the following Sunday Rev. Hegg was finally and formally inducted as the resident priest serving the first permanent altar on American soil. He then proceeded to celebrate the Act of Consecration for the first time in the new building.’