Faith In Brooklyn for April 23

Sacred Sites Open House Weekend Explores How Immigration Has Shaped New York

The New York Landmarks Conservancy’s popular “Sacred Sites Open House Weekend,” now in its fourth year, gives the public a chance to explore the art, architecture and history of houses of worship around the city. Several congregations around Brooklyn, from Williamsburg to Prospect Park South, are participating in this year’s open house weekend, on May 17-18.

The “Sacred Sites Open House Weekend” is when culturally important religious institutions throughout the city and state open their doors to the public and introduce people to remarkable art and architecture they would not normally have the opportunity to explore. The weekend will also provide religious institutions the opportunity to highlight their history, cultural programming and social services that benefit the wider community. The theme of this year’s open house is “How Immigration and Migration Shape New York” and will focus on the rich histories and extraordinary contributions of New York City’s diverse immigrant communities.

“Religious institutions are at the heart of every community and a place where previous immigrant groups have made their impact, new immigrants gather to share their cultural heritage and traditions, and future generations will thrive. Nowhere in the United States is this better demonstrated than right here in New York with its rich diversity of religions and ecclesiastical buildings,” says Peg Breen, President of the Landmarks Conservancy.

The Conservancy’s Sacred Sites program is the only statewide program in the country providing financial and technical assistance for the restoration of culturally significant religious properties. Since 1986, the program has disbursed grants of more than $8 million to more than 700 congregations regardless of denominations.

As of press time, the Brooklyn congregations participating in this year’s open house weekend are: Brown Memorial Baptist Church: 484 Washington Ave in Clinton Hill, May 17, 10 a.m.-2 p.m.; Church of St. Charles Borromeo: 19 Sidney Place in Brooklyn Heights: May 17, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. and Sunday, May 18, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. (presumably around the Mass schedule); the Co-Cathedral of St. Joseph: 856 Pacific St. in Prospect Heights: May 17, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. and May 18, 2-4 p.m.; First Unitarian Congregational Society in Brooklyn: 116 Pierrepont St. in Brooklyn Heights, May 17, 10 a.m-4 p.m.; Plymouth Church: 57 Orange St., Brooklyn Heights: May 17, noon-3 p.m.; St. Ann & the Holy Trinity Church: 157 Montague St. in Brooklyn Heights: May 17, 11 a.m.-2 p.m. and May 18, 1-4 p.m.; Sts. Constantine and Helen Greek Orthodox Cathedral: 64 Schermerhorn St., May 17, noon -4 p.m. and Sunday, May 18, 9 a.m.-2 p.m.; Temple Beth Emeth v’Ohr Progressive Shaari Zedek: 83 Marlborough Road in Prospect Park South: May 17, 1-4 p.m.; and St. Paul’s Lutheran Church: 334 S. 5th St. in Williamsburg: Saturday, May 17, 11 a.m-5p.m.

Brown Memorial was built in 1916 and today continues to attract members of the surrounding communities. These communities have always been a melting pot of various cultures—African Americans from the South, Caribbean, and immigrants of Hispanic heritage and Asian descent—who have experienced a social economic migration over the last 10 years. A professional and artistic population has taken an interest in relocating to Brooklyn, in search of affordable housing, and in their migration has established itself as home and business owners.

The Church of St. Charles Borromeo was established in 1849 with Father Charles Constantine Pise as the founding pastor. The parish’s makeup has shifted to a multicultural and racial group of approximately 600 people who worship each weekend. The present church building was erected in 1869, at the same location as the original.

The Co-Cathedral of St. Joseph currently has an eclectic, intergenerational mix of families, professionals, and Spanish-speaking immigrants. But the parish also stands on the  shoulders of the Irish immigrants who established the parish in 1850. Throughout its long history, the church has also welcomed immigrants from Ireland, Italy and later the Caribbean and Latin America. St. Joseph’s was designated to Co-Cathedral for the Diocese of Brooklyn, making this the second cathedral in the 160-year history of the diocese.

First Unitarian Congregational Society was founded in 1833 by those who were tired of having to travel to Manhattan to attend a Unitarian service.

Plymouth Church was founded in 1847 by people from New England who came to Manhattan and Brooklyn to find work. Over the years, congregants of the church have been involved in running and aiding schools of immigrants both in the US and abroad. In the 1860s, an Assistant Minister ran what is known as the first school for Chinese immigrants in the Five Points District in New York City. The Church House, built in 1913, was a place for immigrants and others to come for community and education. Today, membership is made up of professional, business, and educational people from various walks of life.

Sts. Constantine and Helen Greek Orthodox Cathedral celebrated its centennial last year. Established in 1913, the Cathedral is the original building since the placement of the cornerstone in 1916. Established by Greek immigrants, many of which came from the Peloponnese of Greece at the turn of the 19th century, the congregation now consists of first- and second generation children of the original members of the church.

Temple Beth Emeth v’Ohr Progressive Shaari Zedek was founded in 1911, and the sanctuary was dedicated in 1914. The original members were primarily German Jews who came to the U.S. during the late 1800s and early 1900s. Today, the German Jew heritage is rich, including one member who escaped Nazi Germany in 1938; he is in his 90s. The present-day membership comes from young parents with children, to middle aged members and seniors, and a number of current members have roots in Germany and Poland. Temple Beth Emeth, although the product of merged congregations, has been at its present location since its conception.

St. Paul’s Lutheran Church was founded in 1852 by German immigrants, worship was conducted in German until WWI, after which English became the language of worship. In 1944, a large fire burned much of the building. Though they rebuilt, much of the German congregation began to leave the neighborhood. By the 1960s, a large wave of Puerto Rican and Dominican immigrants moved into the neighborhood, and as a result services in Spanish began being held.

The congregation now primarily consists of families from Mexico and the Dominican Republic. Today, St. Paul’s serves the continued immigrant community by hosting workshops on applying for citizenship, and forums on immigrant rights.  

 Acheson Doyle Architects

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Easter Triduum Around Brooklyn: Thousands join Way of the Cross Procession over Brooklyn Bridge  

By Mary Frost, Brooklyn Daily Eagle

Thousands of believers from across the city joined a solemn procession over the Brooklyn Bridge on Friday morning for the19th annual Good Friday Way of the Cross procession. The prayerful event emulates Christ’s walk to his crucifixion on Calvary, with reflections at five stations along the way.

Sponsored by the Movement of Communion and Liberation, the procession began at St. James Cathedral-Basilica in Downtown Brooklyn, moved across the Brooklyn Bridge to City Hall and Ground Zero, and concluded at St. Peter’s Church in Lower Manhattan.

Photo by Mary Frost

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Larry Picard and Kenny Komala of First Presbyterian Church of Brooklyn sing a duet of hymns at the church’s annual Sunrise Easter Service on the Brooklyn Heights Promenade. About 25, including children and pets, attended the 6:30 a.m. service. Even though the sunrise was earlier, the group definitely expressed the joy of Resurrection and hope in God. Leading the service was the Rev. Nadine Hundertmark, interim senior pastor, who preached a reflection on “Thinking About it All,” Proclaiming that the angel at the tomb transformed a symbol of death into an Easter pulpit,” Rev. Hundertmark charged the gathering with doing the same: “And so we too are to get out into the world, just start walking and see Jesus. Maybe in church today. But maybe at work tomorrow. Or next week. Look for tokens of Easter in lives transformed. In promises kept faithfully. In a person fearlessly facing death. In someone who has been hit hard by the powers of the world, deciding to face the future with courage. Each of us is called to look around us today and in the days to come, for Easter. And each of us is called to Easter—make it a verb—as did the poet Gerard Manley Hopkins did, in the Wreck of the Deutschland.”
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A line of worshipers stretching on Hicks Street past Grace Court waited to get into a newly-opened Grace Church for the 11 a.m. Easter Festival Eucharist. The rector of Grace Church, the Rev. Stephen D. Muncie, said the 11 a.m. service brought in 700 worshipers. This service was at standing-room capacity.

Altogether, he said, over 1,000 attended the three Easter morning services. Fr. Muncie incorporated the starry-illustrated ceiling into his sermon about having faith in what one cannot yet see.

The Grace Church Parish Choir processional at the 9:30 a.m. Easter liturgy. Joy was evident at all three services at the beauty of the newly-restored church. Easter 2014 services marked the first time in over a year that the sanctuary was open for services, following a $10 million roof replacement and restoration project. 
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Our Lady of Refuge Church Launches Organ Recital Series to Celebrate Kilgen Instrument’s Restoration

The pipe organ at Our Lady of Refuge Church in Ditmas Park Brooklyn recently underwent a complete repair and restoration with the help of contributions from over 1,000 people in the New York area and around the world. The organ was restored through a collaboration of A.R. Schopp's Sons and Quimby Pipe Organs, Inc.

Now with the completion of this major accomplishment, the parish hosts a concert series, inviting world-class musicians to perform Organ Recitals at the church. Launching the series, on Friday, May 2 is Johann Vexo, Choir Organist at the Cathedral of Notre-Dame, Paris and at the Cathedral in Nancy. Also from Notre Dame is Olivier Latry, who played at the Dedication Service and concert last fall.

Johann Vexo studied music at the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique of Paris, he perfected his studies with Michel Bouvard and Olivier Latry, and won the first organ prize and the first basso continuo prize. In parallel, he took writing classes, winning the harmony and counterpoint prizes. In 2004, Johann Vexo was granted the position of organist for the Choir Organ of the Cathedral of Notre-Dame de Paris. Since 2009, he is also organist of the Cathedral of Nancy. He holds the Aptitude Certificate and teaches organ at the Conservatoire à Rayonnement Régional of Angers and at the European Music Masterclasses in Nancy. Vexo has recorded several CDs on historical French organs, especially one for JAV recordings on the great organ of Notre-Dame de Paris. He will play a concert of The Organ Works of Maurice Duruflé. Tickets for the 7:30 p.m. concert on Friday, May 2 are available via the church’s website: