NEW YORK: April 4,
Only 15 congregants showed up for
what was billed as the last Easter service to be held anywhere in the
"We can't be sure, of course," said
Ishmael Chao, who holds the title of Lay Leader of the Congregation. "But
as far as we can tell, this is the only Christian church of any
denomination left. So if this is our last Easter service, it's got to be
the last Easter service anywhere."
It is not, however, the last
service. The Church of Christ will hold services in its tiny room above a
beauty parlor on Nostrand Avenue until the end of June, when its contract
with Rev. Randolph Igbati, its part-time pastor, runs out.
"It just didn't make sense to keep
going," Chao said. "Some Sundays there are just the three of us -- me,
Emma, and Rev. Igbati."
"It's the Lord's will," said Emma
Paley, a 123-year-old data entry specialist who has lived in this
neighborhood all her life and remembers when there was a house of worship
of some kind on just about every block. "Otherwise, it wouldn't be
happening. When the world is ready, He'll be back."
But in his sermon, Rev. Igbati
lamented the fact that "what is being lost today might never be
"Over 2100 years ago," he said, "a
love came into this world that had the power to transform each and every
soul that turned to it, that opened to it like a flower to the sun. That
love still shines as brightly as ever. But we have chosen
Miriamne Olsen, a professor of
philosophy at Nouvelle University and author of The Death of
Religion, has a different explanation.
"As people learn more and more,
they tend to believe less and less," she said. "In earlier times people
turned to myths to answer the Big Questions: How did the universe come
into being? What is the meaning of life? What follows death? Now that
science has found persuasive answers to some of these questions, and
promises to discover more, the myths have lost their
"The two biggest blows to
religion," explained Dr. Cheng Moriarity, professor of neuroscience at the
University of Mirabeau, "were the discovery of a precise correlation
between measurable brain activity and human thought and feeling, and the
indefinite extension of human life. These two developments removed the
twin pillars of religion -- the experience of the soul and the fear of
death -- after which it was only a matter of time before the whole
Still, the demise of Easter is
"sad, very sad," lamented Mahmoud Christiansen, curator of the Museum of
Religion at the old St. Patrick's Cathedral on Fifth Avenue. "I know it
had to happen, but when such an old and beautiful tradition ends, well ...
it's like someone dying."
Sentiments which were shared by the
few congregants who stayed after the end of the last Easter service, as
though reluctant to let it go.
"There, there," said Letitia
McNamara as she hugged Rev. Igbati, who was in tears. "It's not goodbye.
We'll be together till June."
"But where will Christ go when
we're gone?" the Reverend asked. "Will He be a homeless wanderer with no
place of His own?"
"Christ is in our hearts," Emma
Paley said, everyone nodding. "We don't need a church for
"On the contrary," Rev. Igbati
said. "Christ lives in the body of the church. The church is like a fire
throwing off sparks that, after a brief burst skyward, fall to the cold,
damp earth and go out. As long as the fire is burning, there will be
sparks. Without the fire, when the last spark goes out, there will be
And on that bleak note, the last of
the small congregation left the last Christian church left in the world,
and the last Easter service was over.