NEW YORK (CBSNewYork)Middle Collegiate Church in the East Village welcomed churchgoers back for in-person services Sunday.

It marked the first time since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and since a fire gutted the historic church in December, CBS2’s Natalie Duddridge reported.

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The church was nearly 130 years old when the fire destroyed part of the main structure. The steeple and facade remained, and the congregation was determined to return.

New York’s historic Liberty Bell also survived the fire. It has sounded for many milestone moments, including to mark the country’s founding in 1776. It’s being kept at the New York Historical Society while the church rebuilds.

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The reverend said Sunday’s service was a sign of resiliency and resurrection after 18 months of isolation and loss.

Hundreds were expected to attend the 11 a.m. service, which was to include music from Broadway performers.

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Proof of vaccination was checked and masks were required. Those who couldn’t make it or are unvaccinated were told they could join a virtual service.

Natalie Duddridge