Straitlaced rev way too uptight for the Village

The Villager’s Nov. 6, 1980, article on Reverend Roger Fulton.

The Villager’s Nov. 6, 1980, article on Reverend Roger Fulton.

BY YANNIC RACK  |  Considering the Village’s bohemian past and present, it might not seem like the ideal place to lead people onto the straight and narrow path to God.

That was the same conclusion that Reverend Roger Fulton came to after eight years preaching in the area, when he was profiled in The Villager on Nov. 6, 1980.

“People around here aren’t exactly falling all over themselves to come to Jesus,” he told reporter Mike Tyler back then for a profile of him and his place of worship, the small non-denominational evangelical Neighborhood Church on Bleecker St.

Fulton had founded the church on W. 10th St. in 1971 and moved it to Bleecker St. two years later, where it still occupies a ground-floor space today and regularly puts on concerts and art shows.

Growing up in Maryland, Fulton turned to God when he was seven years old.

“By 11, he’d preached his first sermon, and decided that the life of the pastor was for him,” the article noted.

“For more than eight years the church has eked out an existence in the Village, working to nudge as many of the unconverted as it can onto what it sees as the proper moral path to God,” Tyler wrote. “The progress has been slow.”

According to the article, the congregation started with a flock of 10 believers that had recently swelled to 40. Its members supported the church by the tithe system — donating 10 percent of their salaries.

But the church’s adversarial stance on many issues, including abortion, the American Civil Liberties Union, détente with the Soviet Union and pornography were not popular among their neighbors.

“Obviously these kinds of views don’t exactly jibe with the rest of the bohemian Village,” Tyler wrote. “In an area full of writers and artists, Fulton preaches censorship of such authors as D.H. Lawrence and, as he puts it, ‘other literary garbage.’ ”

In the interview, Fulton complained that his statements were routinely misrepresented by the press — damaging his image, especially among the gay population of the Village, who were already more than wary of him over his ardent opposition to gay rights.

“Because of this, many gays consider his church a real eyesore,” Tyler reported, adding that it had been picketed more than once and was even vandalized by a radical gay group, whose members broke a window and spray-painted graffiti urging Fulton and his followers to get out of the Village.

In the article, Tyler also described Fulton’s apartment above the church, which, with its stiff-backed furniture and polished baby grand piano, had one quality in common with the preacher’s flock.

“It seems transplanted lock, stock and barrel from the Midwest,” Tyler noted. “In fact, so do the members of the church often seen milling around in front of the Bleecker St. storefront.”

He asked Fulton how many of them were actually native Villagers, and the preacher laughed:

“[He says] that though the church doesn’t demand it, people who turn to God also seem to turn to a more conservative style of dress — even Villagers.”

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