(Excerpts from “Moravians in the City Offering Hope for 25 Years” by the Rev. Dr. David A. Schattschneider, ©2012 Used with permission)
Moravian Open Door (MOD) dedicated its newly renovated facilities at 347 East 18th St. in Manhattan (New York City) on November 7, 1987. Among the political leaders present was David Dinkins, the Manhattan Borough President who would later serve as Mayor of New York (1990-93). Mario Cuomo, then Governor of the State of New York, had sent a citation commending the Moravian Church’s Eastern District for its commitment to provide “permanent housing for 42 elderly, homeless people” in the building “funded with a grant from the State Homeless Housing and Assistance Program and with contributions from member churches and individuals.”
The citation clearly identifies the unique “church and state” partnership which characterized the early stages of MOD’s activity. The citation also notes the long history of the Moravian Church in ministering to the neediest members of society: “By 1732, the Church already had begun serving New Yorkers, ministering to the needy, the unwanted and the forgotten.”
In 1987, Moravian Open Door was a new program inspired by the Coffee Pot ministry of First Moravian Church in Manhattan. For 25 years, from 1968 to 1993, the Coffee Pot drop-in center at First Moravian was that congregation’s most significant ministry to the city’s neediest citizens and denomination’s most significant commitment to urban ministry. It also provided the inspiration for the creation of Moravian Open Door residential program.
The Coffee Pot served the neighborhood at Lexington and 30th St. where First Moravian Church is located. It aided between 175 and 200 homeless people who visited it each day for meals, hygiene and a place where those served could receive mail, including benefit checks such as Federal aid, Social Security and SSI. Despite a full agenda of services, there was one key component that the Coffee Pot lacked: the ability to provide a bed for an overnight stay for its clients.
It was to address this need that several congregation members formed a committee and pursued the vision of what was to become Moravian Open Door. By 1984, First Moravian, under the auspices of the Eastern District Executive Board, created a separate 501 (c)3 entity to develop and operate housing for formerly homeless people. Months of work by the board of this new non-profit resulted in identifying the building at 347 East 18th St. as a leading possibility for a location.
Following several years of negotiations with City and State agencies and securing funding for renovations of more than $1.15 million, MOD received is Certificate of Occupancy on Aug. 28, 1987, with the first residents moving in on Sept. 1.
In the 25 years since, MOD’s structure, staffing and programs have evolved and changed. Today, MOD is funded through four main sources of income: support from the Moravian Church through the denomination and its congregations; individuals; grants from private foundations; and client fees from residents. As important, countless volunteer hours, congregational missions and personal effort on the part of many have helped MOD continue its important work.
The 2010 Provincial Synod of the Northern Province recognized that MOD is a “unique ministry (which) restores dignity, rebuilds lives, and re-establishes independence for those whom it serves.” With its recognition, all Moravians across the United States and Canada could be invited to support this unique ministry in New York City, helping homeless adults help themselves.
You can download David Schattschneider’s detailed history of Moravian Open Door here.
From the November 2012 Moravian Magazine