NEW YORK – They are not always welcome, and most times catch straphangers off guard, but on any given day in New York City's subway, there is a colorful array of Christians expressing their faith in God among the dancers, musicians and the usual panhandlers and performers dotting the platforms and subway cars.
And with some 4.3 million people riding the trains daily and more than a billion going through the turnstiles each year, the audience completely trumps the pull of any megachurch in America.
"I see them all the time on the A train, and you know, people listen and give them money," said retired New York City school teacher Rhoda Simon as she waited for her train in the subway on Friday. "I truly don't listen half the time. Some of them are not too normal while some make sense…but it's a free country. They can do whatever they want. God Bless America," she said before hopping on her train to a meeting with her union.
In this seven-minute YouTube clip, two young women treat New Yorkers waiting for trains on the subway platform to an anointed series of spiritual songs encouraging a visibly inspired crowd to "give it all [to Jesus]" in one song. One of them declares midway through the video: "And for those of you who haven't been to church yet, welcome to church in the subway." Viewers of the video on YouTube were also equally inspired. "Eyes filled up!!! So moved by her passion!" said one viewer Corey Gunz.
Unlike some Christian groups like the Mormons, Catholic nuns in habits or a priest in a collar who are easily identifiable, most times straphangers can't tell who among them is going to suddenly feel the move to talk about Jesus until they open their mouth to belt out a song or Bible verse. And the sermons don't always go down well with some passengers, particularly if they are locked in a moving train and forced to listen to messages some might find offensive.
A video posted on YouTube last month shows a fiery confrontation between a gay man and a preacher denouncing homosexuality.
"What the hell are we teaching our children?" declared the preacher in the video. "That two men and two ladies can have sex?"
"You are full of hate. You are full of hate," the gay man screamed back at him. "You are false. You are false."
The preacher insists to the gay man in the video that his lifestyle is unacceptable and challenges his manhood before he shots back, "I'm a man and I'm a good man, a gay man and Jesus loves me." Other passengers applaud him in the video and he begins rebuking the preacher saying, "Get thee behind me!"
But some straphangers like Manuel Vanderpool from Brooklyn, N.Y. says the fare is all part of the life. He says he a Catholic that doesn't often get to attend church because he has to work and some of the better preachers in the subway have helped him to keep his faith. The last time he came in contact with a subway minister, he told The Christian Post, was a month ago.
"It was a good experience," he said. "I heard them say things that I never heard about. They exposed the Christian faith in a different way than I am used to in the Catholic Church," he said.