By Francesca Norsen Tate, Religion Editor
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Plymouth Church Embarks On Comprehensive Lent Program
Plymouth Church is embarking on a comprehensive Lenten study that incorporates prayer, reflection, the arts and international outreach.
The Rev. Al Bunis, Interim Senior Pastor at Plymouth, points out that, despite the origin of the word “Lent” signifying the lengthening of days and approach of spring, “some have come to think of Lent as a time for ‘winter-like’ spiritual hibernation, a time for going inside and focusing mostly on our own lives. But while personal spiritual development, through reflection and repentance, is at the center of what Lenten spiritual practices are about, there are many different ways to achieve this growth, ways that engage our minds and our bodies and our communities.”
In the new edition of the newsletter Plymouth Press, Bunis describes the variety of opportunities at Plymouth for spiritual growth this Lent. “Some of them have to do with our interior spiritual lives (prayer, study, special worship services), some have to do with our outer spiritual lives (service), and some have to do with community (special fellowship events).
"The centerpiece will be our community-wide series of Lenten service projects, all seeking new ways for the people of Plymouth to work together to more deeply connect with and support our longtime friends at the Mission School of Hope. And all will ultimately aim for the day in May when Rev. Charles Sagay will visit us in Brooklyn from Cameroon.”
“Living into Lent” is one of the study components for this season. Plymouth seminary intern Rachael Huntley leads a six-week study designed to take the congregation on a journey of preparation and reflection for the death and resurrection of Jesus. Each week features scripture reading, reflection, devotion, discussion and prayer. Through this study, participants seek to better understand what it means to be called to be as Christians, and to deepen one’s ability to listen to God. This class is offered in conjunction with Christian Spiritual Development’s Thursday Night at Plymouth series, which includes a children’s program. Living into Lent meets Thursdays, March 6, 13, 20, 27, April 3 and 10, all starting at 6:30 p.m. Enter at 75 Hicks St.
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Plymouth’s Lenten Service Project offers an exploration of connection, both within the congregation and with the Mission School of Hope, a school and community resource serving the impoverished Baka people of Cameroon. The Hebrew prophet Isaiah, Chapter 58, will be the backbone of this program of service opportunities. Plymouth members together will channel their strength toward the common purpose of sharing help, strength and prayer with the Mission School. These projects include: The Prayer Flag Project, a jumble sale, forty days of prayer, letters of connection and further giving opportunities.
During Lent, each Sunday School child will create a design on a square of fabric that expresses what he or she is grateful for. The squares will then be collected and assembled into a prayer flag, and presented to Rev. Charles Sagay of the Mission School at his annual visit in May. This project’s aim is to create a connection between Plymouth’s children and the Mission School children. The community-wide Jumble Sale, scheduled for April 12, will provide hands-on volunteer work, with proceeds going to the Mission School in Cameroon.
As part of the forty days of prayer, each day of Lent, the congregation will receive a short prayer through the Sunday bulletin inserts and social media. Each congregant is encouraged to reflect upon one reading each day, centering prayers on the Mission School and their life-changing work. As part of the letters of connection, During fellowship hour each Sunday of Lent, there will be a table with notecards and pens where the congregation can sit and write a note to the staff, teachers and/or children of the Mission School. People may share a blessing, a piece of scripture, or a simple thought, and let someone know they are loved and that people are thinking of them and praying for them. As part of further giving, Plymouth’s communion offering for the month of March will go towards the Mission School. This will be added to the other gifts presented to Rev. Sagay when he visits on May 18.
“Living into Lent” also has a musical aspect. The children’s choirs will present “Giving It Up” on the first Sunday in Lent, March 9. Plymouth’s Music Minister Bruce Oelschlager and Rini Hughes created this original musical. Catch their performance in Hillis Hall starting at 12:30 p.m., after worship.
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Catholic, Evangelical Leaders Release Letter To Congress on Immigration Reform
Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio, leader of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn, is among the Catholic and evangelical leaders who joined forces, in an unusual but increasing show of unity on the issue of immigration. The coalition sent an open letter to members of Congress, underscoring the urgent need for commonsense immigration reform this year.
During a press conference call late last week, Catholic bishops and national evangelical leaders announced the release of the letter and urged Congress to move forward on long overdue reform rooted in biblical principles.
Bishop DiMarzio, a signer on the letter and the first speaker, said “this letter today comes at a critical time, I think, in our history; because we see kind of a moral failure on the part of our legislators. This issue of immigration is a moral issue…mainly because we see families being separated. We see citizen children not having their parents with them. That’s one of the points we stress in our letter. We also recognize that there are many humanitarian consequences. We need to look at those because it’s not just an issue of legality and illegality. It’s very clear why these people are here. They come because there’s a demand for work. The law of supply and demand is at work here. People come because there are employment opportunities. They are not coming here to camp in our parks. They all have homes, rented or bought. There is a moral content; and it’s a family issue and a moral issue. We really want to stress: together we stand shoulder-to-shoulder in this really civil rights issue in many ways also. It’s a worker’s rights problem that we are addressing. We really stand together and believe the same things.”
Responding to Bishop DiMarzio, Jim Wallis, president of Sojourners, said, “we also say it’s a Gospel issue. I know for Evangelicals, we’ve been converted by [the Gospel of] Matthew [Chapter] 25, and realize now that how we treat 11 million undocumented people is how we treat Christ himself. This for us is a Gospel issue.”
Leith Anderson, president of the National Association of Evangelicals, pointed out that his organization has been working on this for a half a dozen years, joining together with others to form the Evangelical Immigration Table. “Our growing momentum is being joined together with the growing momentum of the Catholic Church as well. And we have lots of diversity and lots of variety. But on this, we agree. We all agree on the need for immigration reform,” he said.
Anderson pointed out that the reform proposals began with President George W. Bush. “So, this started out with a Republican President’s plan. And every day of delay is a vote for keeping immigration exactly the way it is right now. Since everyone seems to agree that our current immigration system is broken then everyone should be voting for change. And those who don’t, members of Congress or whoever, those who oppose reform, are really ratifying the status quo. In this debate, often the humanitarian consequences of our broken system are ignored. Families are ripped apart, migrant workers are exploited, and human beings continue to die in the desert. This suffering must end.”
Also participating was the Rev. Sam Rodriguez, president of National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference; and Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Miami.
Bishop DiMarzio told the Brooklyn Eagle during the same call, regarding one-on-one advocacy to political leaders here that “the Congressional delegation in Brooklyn is basically Democratic, and they have been really receptive to the issue—along party lines. But we don’t want to make this a partisan issue. When I’ve spoken to them, I think we’ve seen an open-ness to what we’re saying. We are a county, in Brooklyn, where immigrants are more than half the population. So you can’t ignore the issue.”
He also mentioned a Citizenship Campaign that he and US Senator Charles E. Schumer were going to launch on Sunday, March 2.
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The Open Letter to Congress
Many other religious leaders were part of the interfaith coalition which signed a letter to Congress urging the House of Representatives to pass sensible immigration reform this year. The letter, dated Feb. 26, is reprinted below:
“We, the undersigned evangelical and Catholic leaders, write to urge you to work for a bipartisan agreement on and passage of immigration reform legislation this year. As leaders in our respective faith communities, we live every day with the reality that our immigration system does not reflect our commitment to the values of human dignity, family unity and respect for the rule of law that defines us as Americans. Each day we witness the human tragedies created by our current system, including the separation of families and the violation of basic human dignity. Common sense fixes to our immigration policies are long overdue. As a nation founded upon the principles of the rule of law and the centrality of family, we can no longer delay fixing this system.
"We are hopeful for reform legislation that respects the God-given dignity of every person, protects family unity, respects the rule of law, guarantees the integrity of our national borders, ensures fairness for taxpayers, and makes it possible for undocumented immigrants who meet the requirements to become citizens if they desire. We urge you to create bipartisan solutions that reflect these principles and our nation’s values, creating just, fair and humane immigration laws.”
The 19 signers, in addition to Bishop DiMarzio: Leith Anderson, Rev. Sam Rodriguez and Archbishop Wenski, included leaders of the Archdioceses of Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles and Washington D.C.; the dioceses of Brownsville, Texas (on the border with Mexico); Little Rock, Arkansas; Salt Lake City, and clergy representing National Latino Evangelical Coalition, the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission; World Relief; the Christian Community Development Association; and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) Committee on Migration.
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Bishop DiMarzio Teams with Senator Schumer In New Citizenship Outreach Campaign
Bishop DiMarzio is also advocating for a media and outreach campaign to encourage legal permanent residents to become citizens.
In Corona, Queens, Bishop DiMarzio, Senator Charles Schumer and Catholic migration services of the Diocese of Brooklyn last Sunday announced the launch of a major media and outreach campaign, titled Cambia Tu Vida, to promote naturalization of legal permanent residents in the New York City area. The event took place at Our Lady of Sorrows Church in Corona. Joining them were Congresswoman Grace Meng, Kelly Marie Fay Rodriguez of AFL-CIO’s Immigration and Community Action, Hector Figueroa of 32BJ / SEIU, Assemblyman Francisco Moya and Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras. They were joined by hundreds of immigrant parishioners attending Mass.
The announcement is part of the New Americans Campaign (NAC), an unprecedented nonpartisan national network of more than 80 organizations who have come together to encourage and assist eligible legal permanent residents (LPRs) in becoming U.S. citizens. Beginning this month, Catholic migration services will bring the NAC’s message to New York City through a series of English and Spanish language public service announcements to air on local television stations, print and social media and grassroots publicity efforts. The campaign will encourage legal permanent residents to call the Cambia Tu Vida hotline at 855-622-6242 to be screened and, if eligible, registered for one of several “mega workshops” to be conducted by Catholic Migration Services in April.
Through its efforts in March and April, Catholic Migration Services (CMS) will aim to assist over one thousand eligible individuals to complete and submit applications for naturalization. CMS attorneys, counselors and pro bono volunteers will staff the “mega workshops.” This assistance will be provided in a series of “mega workshops” staffed by CMS attorneys, counselors and pro bono volunteers. Adopting an innovative model of service provision developed by the NAC, CMS hopes to aid immigrants in overcoming the barriers and confusion often experienced by those who seek to apply for naturalization.
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The American Guild of Organists-Brooklyn Chapter’s “Three Perspectives on Hymnody” program takes place this Saturday, March 8 from 1-4 p.m. A previous announcement incorrectly listed the day of the week as being Sunday. Plymouth Church (Orange St. between Henry and Hicks Streets), hosts the event. Admission is free.
Presenters will be renowned church composer David Hurd, The Rev. Angela Askew, a past chapter honoree; and Jacque Jones, president-elect of the Hymn Society, whose poetry has been published in several hymns.
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Grace Church Honors Steve Muncie On His 10th Anniversary As Rector
Grace Church-Brooklyn Heights honored The Rev. Stephen D. Muncie ashe completes his first decade as Rector of this landmark church. During a celebratory brunch, complete with what he joyfully exclaimed were table decorations bearing his school colors, he was given a surprise presentation.
Tom Chittenden, senior warden of Grace Church, pointed out to the gathering that, of Muncie’s many accomplishments over the past 10 years, three stood out for him.
“First, responding to your preaching on ‘radical openness,’ Grace Church has evolved from a parish mostly of persons living in or very near the Heights and of largely similar backgrounds, to a much more diverse parish in many respects—geographically, economically, culturally, and yes, also in terms of gender preferences in relationships. In short, under your leadership, we are creating a healthier and decidedly more Christian community.”
Chittenden also credited Fr. Muncie with expanding parish programs and outreach, and for leading and inspiring the renovation of the 1848 Richard Upjohn Church and the $5.3 million capital campaign needed to fulfill that renovation.
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Cathedral Parishioners Honored At St. Maron’s Day Feast
Submitted by Salma Vahdat
Contributor, Our Lady of Lebanon Cathedral
The community of faith of Our Lady of Lebanon Cathedral made the most of our Patron Saint’s feast day this year. Not just a one day celebration, but two days of camaraderie.
Recently (the feast day was Feb. 9), more than 200 parishioners and friends gathered at the Rex Manor in Brooklyn for a Hafli celebration. The evening was directed by the very capable Norma Haddad and chaired by the affable William Abou-Chrouch.
St. Maron was a 5th century C.E. Syrian, Christian monk and mystic.
This year we were graced by the presence of our Shepherd, Bishop Gregory Mansour…always a joy to have among us. Msgr. James Root, our rector, was beaming as he greeted his flock and we were delighted to have as honored guests the Rev. Michael Ellias and his wife of St. Mary Orthodox Church, The Rev. Antoine Rizk of the Melkite Church of the Virgin Mary; Sub deacon Norbert and Leila Vogl; the Honorable Majdi Ramadan, Consul General of Lebanon in New York; State Senator Marty Golden; and Brooklyn Borough President, Eric Adams.
The evening’s program included a Proclamation from the New York State Senate that Golden brought, congratulating the Maronite community for its strong sense of family and commitment rendered through the church.
Adams, recently elected, pledged his office to the work of bettering the community as a whole. When the familiar face of Ramadan rose to speak the room paused to hear what news of Lebanon. He did not disappoint. He reminded us all how important the Maronites were and are to Lebanon. He said it was the Maronites who forged modern day Lebanon and it is now their responsibility to help the Homeland in these so very troubled times. The abominable situation in Syria causing hundreds of thousands of refugees to flee into Lebanon is a major cause of concern. It was apparent that he is counting on us to respond to the needs engendered by this crisis.
Finally, Bishop Gregory made an appeal to us to pray for Syria and to St. Maron to aid in a settlement towards peace for the region and the world. He said that there are forces pulling in opposite directions lead by jealousy and envy. Needless to say, the remarks made by our Consul and our Shepherd were very sobering indeed.
We arrived then at a part of the evening that keeps us all on the edge of our seats. Cloaked in secrecy, finally to be revealed were the NAM awards. The Silver Massabki award was presented to Rafca and William Abou-Chrouch for their years of faithful service. The Faith of the Mountain award went to Jupiter El-Asmar for his service to the church and community at large.
A newly established “Cathedral” award, for those who have faithfully served the Cathedral and community was given to Joseph El Helew and William Shakal. From the thunderous applause that erupted following the announcements it was obvious the community was well pleased and the awards well deserved.
With the formalities concluded the evening continued with a delicious dinner and music provided by the Eddie Zosama band.
The following day, Sunday, the community gathered at the Cathedral for the Divine Liturgy. We gave thanks to our Patron for guiding, protecting and strengthening our resolve to live up to the Maronite tradition. We also celebrated the induction into the Order of St. Charbel of our own, beloved Marian Sahadi Ciaccia, President of the Confraternity of the Immaculate Conception. Her children and grandchildren shared in the joy of the congregation as Sayedna Gregory presented her with her medal.
A lovely brunch was offered at our usual coffee hour in the Social Hall where all were happy to offer congratulations to Marion and her family.