(Photo: Heavenly Vision Christian Center)
The ongoing saga of New York City churches continued this past weekend with Heavenly Vision Christian Center opting to hold worship services on the street.
The church's pastor, Salvador Sabino, held an outdoor service Sunday with about 350 people gathering in 40 degree weather, because his congregation was denied a permit to meet in the public school they usually meet in.
He told The Christian Post that he is thinking about changing the name of his church to "Heavenly Vision Street Church" and that they are going to continue meeting on the street wherever they can regardless of the weather.
Sabino's church is one of the more than 60 churches in New York City that have been fighting a ban that went into effect last week barring them from meeting in the city's public schools.
He told CP that his congregation was disappointed by the ban, but "the church is going to worship God and that's what we did. People got saved and everybody was happy," Sabino said.
The street service consisted of a time of worship, a short sermon, and sharing of testimonies. Two women testified about how God healed them of cancer, three young people talked about how they had left gangs, and others shared how they had gotten out of jail and given up drugs.
Sabino said they are going to continue setting up their sound equipment each week in different areas around Manhattan to worship. They will have to move zones in order to get a sound permit each Sunday to hold the worship service.
"I understand what these small houses of worship are doing," said Council Member Fernando Cabrera, who spoke at the service yesterday. "They have nowhere to go now. What is better, having religious groups out on sidewalks and inside parks, or having them pay the city to meet inside empty school buildings?"
Last Thursday, church leaders thought they had a reprieve when the Bronx Household of Faith's attorneys won a temporary restraining order allowing houses of worship to continue meeting for worship services in New York City public schools for a short time.
The city and the more than 60 houses of worship that were evicted assumed that the restraining order also applied to them, and many were working to get permits for their usual Sunday services.
But in a strange twist last Friday, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said the temporary restraining order only applied to one congregation.
The appeals court said it was a misunderstanding on the part of the other houses of worship, saying that only the Bronx Household of Faith, the church that started the case 17 years ago, was allowed to worship in a public school in the weekend.
For now, the other churches will have to wait for the bill sitting in the state Assembly.
Earlier this month the New York Senate passed a bill to reverse the ban, but it is still sitting in the Education Committee on the Assembly side. It first has to go to a vote in the committee and will then move to the floor.
Its future in the House is less certain as Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver has added his own complications to the issue. He has refused to hear the Senate bill, saying he was going to work on his own version. The Assembly is in recess until Feb. 28.