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Sunday’s prayer meeting at Calvary Church in Manhattan (Handout)

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A Manhattan prayer meeting

Hundreds of New Yorkers gather to pray for China’s persecuted Christians

A New York moment: 

On Sunday afternoon, at least 130 people from 30 area churches—from Emmanuel Presbyterian Church to the charismatic Brooklyn Tabernacle to Chinese-speaking churches in New Jersey—gathered in Manhattan to pray for the persecuted church in China. The timing was significant, marking the one-year anniversary (on China time) of the arrest of the leaders of Early Rain Covenant Church in Chengdu. One elder from that church has been sentenced to four years in prison, and Pastor Wang Yi faces imminent sentencing.

The prayers took place at Manhattan’s Calvary Church while, incidentally, protesters a block away marched with placards decrying the Uighur detention centers in China. The demonstrators were surrounded by New York Police Department protection.  

China Partnership, an organization that supports the indigenous church in 150 cities in China, hosted the Calvary prayer gathering. Its staffers shared messages from various anonymous Christians in China about the persecution they are experiencing. 

“Persecution reveals our fear, anger, and weakness,” read one message from a Chinese Christian. “Our longing is this world and the pleasures of the middle class life. ... Our total surrender is a fruit that the Spirit is working in us, and will work in our church in the next two decades.” 

A Chinese Christian attorney, in a recording, added: “There is no strength to face any of this without prayer.” 

The meeting’s emotion-filled prayers focused on Chinese church leaders, church growth, and believers who are imprisoned, are threatened by police, or have lost jobs or homes because of their faith. China Partnership publishes regular prayer guides focusing on various parts of the country.

A diversity of people prayed, old and young of many ethnicities, aloud to the congregation, then in small groups. The gathering sang songs and read Scripture in both in Chinese and English. 

Abraham Cho, pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church East Side, prayed for the Chinese believers, “Speak to their trembling hearts the words, ‘Fear not, for I am with you.’” He went on: “Here in the West, forgive us for ...” He paused for a few moments, losing his composure. “Forgive us for our prayerlessness.” 

—This story has been updated to correct the estimate of the number of people at the prayer meeting.

Worth your time:  

A banana duct-taped to a wall sold at the Art Basel Miami Beach art show for $120,000. Then someone ate the banana off the wall. The gallery replaced the banana and surrounded it with security guards, but then removed it because of the “Mona Lisa-like attention” it was getting. This whole spectacle seems to capture our obsession with entertainment over substance. 

This week I learned: 

Partly due to the 2008 recession, when tree farmers didn’t plant as many Fraser firs, Christmas trees are more expensive in New York this year. 

A court case you might not know about: 

Four states, including New York, are appealing to the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals a lower court ruling that dismissed their lawsuit over state and local tax (SALT) deductions. The case challenges the Republican tax reform legislation, which capped state and local deductions at $10,000 (a burden in high-tax states like New York). New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo attempted a creative way around the new tax law—having taxpayers donate to state charitable funds—but the Internal Revenue Service shot down that plan.

Culture I am consuming: 

Knives Out, writer-director Rian Johnson’s new whodunit film. It is absolute fun, from 89-year-old Christopher Plummer’s liveliness to Toni Collette’s hilarious portrayal of a Gwyneth Paltrow—type lifestyle guru. Collette’s lifestyle company is called “Flam,” and the film even made a website for it. The site doesn’t currently sell any products “due to a misunderstanding with the FDA.”

Email me with tips, story ideas, and feedback at 

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Dee-Ann Durbin/AP

The Starbucks Reserve Roastery in New York City (Dee-Ann Durbin/AP)

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Thanks for the Wi-Fi

Praise for big corporations that provide oases for the homeless, knitting clubs, and roving reporters

A New York moment: 

When I’m not out and about reporting, I spend most of my working hours writing in coffee shops around New York, and the coffee emporium where I feel most comfortable is Starbucks. Indie coffee shops have that extra-tasty espresso, but they often lack bathrooms (public restrooms in New York are vital and hard to come by), friendliness, or any food beyond a $7 cup of granola. 

Many hipster coffee shops in New York now eschew Wi-Fi and power outlets in an attempt to drive out the laptop worker bees like me. I’ve found they also blare music to try to prevent people from sitting in there on work phone calls. I get it: New York is a busy place where every square foot is in high demand. 

But by comparison, big corporate Starbucks is an oasis of hospitality sitting on nearly every other block in Manhattan. 

At every store, Starbucks offers Wi-Fi, a seemingly infinite menu, good seating, and bathrooms (well, usually). And now it has subscription partnerships with newspapers from The Wall Street Journal to The Tennessean—so when customers log on to the abundant, free internet, they have access to dozens of subscription-only news sources. Chris Arnade, author of Dignity: Seeking Respect in Back Row America (short-listed in our Books of the Year issue), recently made the point that Starbucks is becoming more welcoming to “the back row,” in a way that McDonald’s already is. 

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Democracy activist Joshua Wong (left) with two other activists in Hong Kong. (Kin Cheung/AP)

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Polarizing protesters?

Even schools in New York are experiencing tensions over the Hong Kong democracy movement

Tensions over the Hong Kong protests have been on a low simmer on New York’s college campuses, where 40 percent of international students are from mainland China, according to the Institute of International Education. Less than 1 percent are from Hong Kong. 

New York institutions of higher learning have insisted that they remain places for open debate over the Hong Kong unrest. But human rights activists have long worried about the influence on American schools of campus groups tied to the Chinese government, such as the Chinese Students and Scholars Association and Confucius Institutes

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