In1672, Peter Stuyvesant, the puritanical one-legged Governor of New Amsterdam, built a chapel on what is now the corner of 2nd Avenue and 11th Street in the East Village. Almost 350 years later it is now known as St. Mark’s Church-in-the-Bowery. The word bowery is Dutch meaning “farm.” Back in those days, the area was covered with farms and orchards, and it was mostly owned by Peter Stuyvesant. Hard to believe today that is what the Lower East Side was like, but it’s true.
The church is the second oldest site of continuous worship in Manhattan. There are spirits that inhabit the place, and I believe them to be gentle and good-natured. There have been several additions over the years after the Governor’s family sold it. A fire nearly destroyed it, but the Episcopal Church that bought it and the artistic community that calls the church home have endured. Stuyvesant is buried there and so are many other famous Americans including a vice president of the US, several NYC mayors, Revolutionary war heroes and even a commodore of the US Navy. In addition several artists have inhabited the grounds over the years such as Kahil Gibran, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Carl Sandburg, Martha Graham, Isadora Duncan, Patti Smith and Allen Ginsburg to name a few. They must have all sensed the spirituality of the place.
So it was no surprise that the site was chosen to honor a man who recently left us too early. A Rockaway resident by way of Brooklyn and New Jersey with stops in Nashville. He left a rich narrative brightly colored with family and friends and songs, recalling the sweet nature of this beautifully gifted musician. Those that came recited poems, sang songs, and reminisced about a person who had touched their lives deeply over the course of his too short life.
The church was filled to capacity this past weekend, and many came great distances, and the tears that flowed were of joy, knowing that as one of his classic songs went, “everything is a miracle to me.”
If you were lucky enough to hear Greg Trooper perform, you were blessed. For those that didn’t, we are lucky to have Greg’s recordings to hear his stories through his music. Greg was a regular everyday guy who had the ability to create a story set to the music of an acoustic guitar. Famous recording artists have recorded many of his songs, but he could sing them better than anyone because they came from his heart.
He married into a creative family of Brooklyn Irish that added spice to his life, and is survived by that loving and caring extended family. On Saturday, their friends, family and colleagues all came out to celebrate this local, humble star. And for an afternoon, everyone in that old Dutch church felt connected to each other in ways we have all long since forgotten. It was a connection that no electronic social network could ever replicate, because it was real, it was human, and it bound the spirits from the past with the present, and the miracle that can be the future.
I think the Bowery spirits were happy to welcome their new addition to the choir.