By Francesca Norsen Tate, Religion Editor
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Annual Model Seder at City Tech Exemplifies Interfaith Hospitality
Professor Concetta Mennella Receives Special Appreciation Award for Her Work
Freedom from slavery is a central theme of the Passover story. So is hospitality, emphasized Rabbi Seth Wax and the Jewish Faculty & Staff Association of New York City Technical College.
The JFSA hosted its annual Pre-Passover Program on April 9 at City Tech’s Grace Gallery, welcoming members of the faculty. JFSA membership, which is open to all members of the College community, aims to share the traditions and understanding of all facets of Judaism. And many of the guests at this year’s large turnout (extra tables and chairs were brought out) come from various religious traditions, including Russian Orthodox, Episcopal, and Seventh Day Adventist. All shared in a kosher meal as Rabbi Wax of Congregation Mount Sinai led a model 30-Minute Seder. It was pointed out that the Book of Exodus narrates the story of the very first Passover—the Israelites had to eat their meals in a rush, “standing, with their loins girded,” ready to leave Egypt. There wasn’t any time to let the bread rise, thus the use of matzah.
Before the meal began, Professor Concetta Mennella was presented with the JFSA’s Special Appreciation Award, in recognition of her “commitment and dedication to the mission of JFSA.” Introducing Prof. Mennella, JFSA President Albert Sherman said that “she is a very dedicated and very appreciative of this organization. She never says no. What the Jewish Faculty & Staff does is recognize those people. This year we want to extend our appreciation to our very own Professor Mennella.” Addressing Prof. Mennella directly, Prof. Sherman said, “Especially in appreciation for all the devotion you have given over the years, and all the help that I have received from you over the years.”
The JFSA also honored the memory of their colleague Rabbi Dr. Alan Abraham Kay, who died in October 2012. Rabbi Dr. Kay had officiated at many JFSA programs. Saying that he had been very dear and loyal to us for many, many years, Prof. Sherman pointed out that even in this loss, he remembered Rabbi Dr. Kay’s words to him about continuing to hold the JFSA events and Seders.
The guest speaker, Rabbi Wax, opened his presentation of the Haggadah reading with an overview of the dominant force in place as the Passover tradition evolved. “Passover in part is about celebrating freedom. Who better to model yourself after than the Roman aristocracy! The Passover Seder originally emerged as a symposium, where free people would sit around, each at their own house, reclining on their sides; each one with their plates with snacking hors d’oeuvres. That became the Passover Seder plate. Now we tend to have just one of them at a Seder,” he said.
“In addition to having a plate of food. You can’t have a symposium without wine.” At this particular seder, grape juice was used for practical reasons—the faculty had to return to their class schedule after the meal. “Passover is a celebration of freedom, and one of the things about being free is you get to be served,” said Rabbi Wax, who then invited the participants to pour each other’s cups of grape juice.
As educators, members and guests of the Jewish Faculty & Staff Association were particularly active in the discussion of the Four Children mentioned in the Haggadah, and how to keep each type and temperament of child engaged in the Passover observance. These “Four Children” represent the “wise” or spiritually precocious child; the wicked child, who has no interest whatsoever in Passover, the simple child who may not easily be able to understand and the child too young to ask, or too bashful. It was pointed out also that this fourth type of child could also be an adult who has suffered cognitive disability.
Rabbi Wax engaged the participants in conversation about encountering the four types of child when teaching, and the methods they found to be effective when teaching the importance of the Jewish holidays as well as the subject matter of the disciplines they teach.
Discussion also centered on the distractions that pull their students away from religious observance, including the pressures students have of balancing full academic load with full-time jobs and supporting families.
Conversation continued over the meal of roast chicken and potatoes, soufflé and dessert.
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Lutheran Church in Clinton Hill Will Close, Blames Waning Membership, Building Costs
Last Service Scheduled for June 22
St. Luke’s Lutheran Church, 259 Washington Avenue in Clinton Hill, will be closing this summer, with its final service to be held on June 22.
The Metropolitan New York Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) made the announcement on Tuesday.
The synod cited causes a significantly diminished congregation and a building that would require $10 million to stabilize, as the reason for closing.
St. Luke’s Academy, a non-religious based preschool housed in the building, will also close as of Aug. 31. Plans are already underway to maintain a ministry presence in the Clinton Hill community and to provide the remaining St. Luke’s worshippers with the opportunity to be welcomed at other Evangelical Lutheran churches in nearby communities.
Synod Bishop Robert Rimbo stated, “The decision to close a congregation is never an easy one. St. Luke’s has been under synod administration since 2006 when its congregation became unable to financially sustain the church. Because our synod believed it was important to maintain a ministry presence in Clinton Hill, the closure of St. Luke’s was delayed for nearly a decade while several attempts were made to try to revitalize the ministry, none of which succeeded. By 2012, membership and worship attendance had drastically diminished, making it impractical for the congregation to fulfill the purposes for which it was organized; and the condition of the buildings continued to deteriorate, making it necessary for the synod to protect the property from further waste and deterioration.”
Since the year 2000, the Metropolitan New York Synod provided St. Luke’s with financial support in excess of $1 million much of which was spent on emergency building repairs. In addition, the ELCA has contributed partnership grant monies totaling over $175,000 for the purpose of seeking the means to revitalize the church.
Seeking a new and innovative ministry
Then, in October 2012, representatives from the ELCA and the Metropolitan New York Synod held a formal Ministry Review at St. Luke’s. The recommendations from the review team included the discontinuation of partnership grant support from the ELCA and the synod, the formation of a mission planning team to determine what type of new and innovative ministry might be possible on this site and a full assessment of the repair and restoration work necessary to continue ministry in this location.
The review team also recommended that the remaining members of the congregation be allowed to continue as a worshipping community and that St. Luke’s Academy continue as well, until the mission planning team, along with the appointed trustees, completed their work. At its January 2013 meeting, the Synod Council voted to accept the recommendations of the ministry review team.
Synod Vice President, Maria del Toro explained, “Given the extremely poor condition of both the church and the education buildings, it was important to do a full assessment of repair and restoration costs before our synod could consider engaging a mission developer to start a new ministry at this site. Our synod contracted with a highly respected building conservator and a structural engineering firm to do this assessment. The results of their work indicate that the cost to repair/restore both buildings is approximately $10 million. Given the magnitude of required repairs, our concern for the safety of both the members of St. Luke’s as well as the faculty and children of St. Luke’s Academy and members of the larger community, and the fact that the congregation had so diminished that it could no longer fulfill the purposes of a congregation, it was concluded that both the congregation and St. Luke’s Academy needed to close. At a meeting on March 27, the trustees and the Rev. Lamont Wells, the synod’s Director for Evangelical Mission, met with the leaders at St. Luke’s to inform them of this decision.”
From grief to repurpose
Bishop Rimbo stated, “Our synod remains committed to maintaining a ministry presence in Clinton Hill. What type of ministry that will be, and where and how that will happen, is yet to be determined. Our synod is actively looking into several possibilities. In keeping with our synod’s strategic plan to try and repurpose, where practical, the properties of congregations that have closed, our synod is in conversation regarding various possible scenarios for the St. Luke’s site. To do this will likely take several months. This, of course, does not preclude the possibility that the property may ultimately be sold if repurposing the property is not practical.
“Recognizing that the decision to close is particularly painful for the current members, we ask all to pray for the members of St. Luke’s as they journey through these final days. The grieving for the closing of St. Luke’s extends beyond the current members, to all those who once called St. Luke’s their church home.
Bishop Rimbo expressed his hope that the June 22 service would also celebrate the church’s history of ministry that spans over almost 145 years. He said, ‘God has plans for each and every one of us and we must remain faithful to our calling. The ministry at the physical place called St. Luke’s Lutheran Church is coming to an end, but because we are a resurrection church, it is an ending that should—and can be—filled with hope.’”
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Holy Week and Easter Triduum Services
Church of St. Ann & the Holy Trinity begins its observance of the Easter Triduum (the three holy days leading up to the feast of the Resurrection of Jesus) with an Agape Meal on Maundy Thursday, April 17. The word agape is Greek in origin and means sacrificial love, of the kind that Christians believe Jesus showed to the world through his example and death. The origin of Maundy Thursday is from the Latin mandatim or maunde. The full verse is “Mandatum novum do vobis”(A new commandment I give unto you.’) from the Gospel of John. Jesus says these words in his Last Discourse in the Gospel of John, during the Last Supper.
The Agape Meal at St. Ann’s will be a simple supper, taking place in the Parish Hall at 157 Montague St. Immediately following will be the Liturgy for Maundy Thursday, with foot washing and stripping of the altar.
St. Ann’s offers several opportunities for worship and private meditation on Good Friday, April 18. The Stations of the Cross will be prayed at noon, followed by a Silent Vigil until 3 p.m., covering the three hour period that Christ is believed to have suffered on the cross. A Family service is offered at 3 p.m. and the Liturgy for Good Friday begins at 7 p.m.
Early Church (9:30 a.m.) on Easter Sunday will be an outdoor service (on the north lawn), weather permitting, with Easter Egg Hunt. The Festival Eucharist with Choir and bells begins at 11 a.m.
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Recovery House of Worship (RHOW), which meets at the New Baptist Temple in Boerum Hill, offers Easter services: Good Friday, April 18 at 7 p.m.; Saturday, April 19 at 7 p.m. and Easter Sunday, April 20, 10 a.m. and noon. The congregation’s ministry is focused on recovery and Twelve-Step Ministries. RHOW also operates several ministries for the needy.
Zion German Evangelical Lutheran Church observes Maundy Thursday, which celebrates Jesus’ commandment to love one another, with a 7 p.m. Passover meal, and remarks on the institution of Holy Communion. Liturgies on Good Friday, which commemorates the Passion, crucifixion and death of Jesus, are offered in at 11 a.m. in German, and in English at 7:30 p.m., including the Tenebrae (meaning shadows) liturgy. One service will be offered on Easter Sunday, at 9:30 a.m.
Bethlehem Lutheran Church in Bay Ridge hosts its Passover Seder at 6 p.m. on Maundy Thursday; with worship following at 7:30 p.m. Worship on Good Friday begins at 7:30 p.m. The church, on 4th and Ovington Avenues, also hosts an Easter Morning breakfast followed by Easter Sunday worship service at 10:30 a.m.
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Liberty Church, which recently planted a congregation in Brooklyn, is evangelizing its presence in the Borough. Identifying itself as being “for the young and old, for believers and skeptics. For every tribe and tongue. For everyone,” Pastors Paul and Andi Andrew of Liberty Church has sent out cards announcing its services at three locations around Brooklyn and Manhattan.
The service in Brooklyn takes place at 9:30 on Easter Sunday, meeting at the United Artists Cinema (106 Court St. between State Street and Atlantic Ave.), as the growing congregation has done since Jan. 19.
Liberty Church’s Good Friday service is held at the Scholastic Auditorium, 557 Broadway in SoHo, with lounge opening at 6:30 p.m. Additional Easter Day services will also be held at this SoHo location at 10:30 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. Liberty Kids Easter activities will also be provided. Easter night services will be held at the Union Square Ballroom (27 Union Square, #500) at 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. on April 20.