Methodist agency leaves NYC as other institutions face rising property costs

When Betty Thompson arrived in New York City in 1950, she soon got a job with the Methodist Board of Missions on Fifth Avenue in a stretch she called “Protestant Rome.”

Ten blocks of the avenue were home to several mainline groups, including Presbyterians, Baptists, and a World Council of Churches office. A decade later, when the Interchurch Center—originally called the Protestant Center and later nicknamed the God Box—opened across from Riverside Church, several denominational and interdenominational groups moved there. The Methodist mission board was one of the original tenants.

“We all dwelt in ecumenical harmony,” Thompson said. “It was kind of the heyday of the ecumenical movement.”