A new approach to evangelizing the multitudes of New York City has been launched with the opening of the New York Center at Times Square. Behind this undertaking lie several years of intensive study of the peculiar needs of the city and of the habits, backgrounds, and thinking of the people.
Even more important, there has been earnest and continuing prayer and careful study of the Spirit of prophecy instruction regarding city evangelism. In undertaking this new venture for God, we have turned with special gratitude to the instruction given specifically for New York City.
Remembering that all God's biddings are enablings, we have turned again and again to the words written by Ellen G. White:
Those who bear the burden of the work in Greater New York should have the help of the best workers that can be secured. Here let a center for God's work be made, and let all that is done be a symbol of the work the Lord desires to see done in the world.—Testimonies, vol. 7, p. V. (Italics supplied.)
From all of our study has emerged a concept of center evangelism to meet the needs of the whole man—body, mind, and spirit. And in a city where the religious, economic, and cultural backgrounds of the people vary so widely, the program of the center must have great flexibility and variety.
Out of this concept has grown a program in which evangelistic preaching plays an important but not exclusive role. Because of the limitations of subject and presentation imposed by the constantly changing audience in an area where thirteen million visitors come each year, those who show more than passing interest will be drawn into smaller groups for more intensive Bible study.
We are indebted in many ways to the pioneering experience of the New Gallery Center in London. Specifically, our weekly schedule of religious film showings and the midday concerts of high-fidelity stereophonic recordings are similar to what has been done successfully in London. The sound equipment was provided without charge by the manufacturers. The New York Center, like the New Gallery, has a reading room well stocked with denominational books and periodicals, and a meditation room.
Remembering the instruction that "in the work of the gospel, teaching and healing are never to be separated" (The Ministry of Healing, p. 141), and repeated counsels regarding the importance of medical missionary work in reaching all classes in the cities, our planning group,, headed by E. L. Branson, president of the Greater New York Conference, has given much study to the health phase of the program.
It has seemed wise to begin in a small way with emphasis on health education. Dorothea Van Gundy was sent to New York for two and a half months by the International Nutrition Research Foundation, to get the instruction in nutrition and cooking under way. Miss Van Gundy not only gave valuable help in the churches of the area and held classes at the Center after it opened, but negotiated with the manufacturers for the gift of equipment for the model kitchen set up on the platform of the lower auditorium.
A health information service is available in the reading room, offering a wide selection of our own health literature and pamphlets provided by the national health agencies. Although our health education work is only beginning, it has already won the enthusiastic interest of executives in these agencies, as they have been contacted by Joyce Wilson and members of our own Health Education Committee.
Health lectures, first-aid and home-nursing classes, and a junior health club are included in the first stage of the health education program. Plans for larger undertakings are still incomplete.
Craft classes, hobby clubs, story hours, and a youth night make provision for children and young people of all ages.
Atlantic Union College is conducting an extension school at the Center, offering college credit in several courses taught by faculty members and Center personnel.
In all this varied Center program there is rich opportunity for the talents of laymen. Without their generous gifts of time and talent the full program undertaken at the Center would be impossible with our small staff. Already our laymen have given many hours to redecorating the upper floors of the building. Volunteers are helping to staff the reading room, acting as ushers, singing in the choir, and doing many behind-the-scenes jobs so necessary to a smooth-running program. Our doctors and nurses are showing an active interest in planning and conducting health education in the center.
Through all the activity of launching a complex Center program, it is the daily prayer of the whole staff—paid and volunteer—that the Center shall provide, above all, that highest form of Christian service—the witness of lives transformed by divine love. It is still too early to give a progress report. Experience will no doubt dictate many adjustments of the original program. Many plans still wait for time, personnel, and means for their realization. But we look to the future with strong faith that God will make the New York Center a light at the crossroads for the sin-sick multitudes who throng this great city.