By Francesca Norsen Tate, Religion Editor
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
St. Ann’s Parish Moves Back into Newly Repaired Sanctuary
‘Exile’ Experience Bolstered Congregation’s Understanding of Doing Ministry
When the parishioners of St. Ann & the Holy Trinity Church entered their sanctuary with palm fronds last Sunday, they were celebrating two redemptions.
One of these redemptions was at the heart of Holy Week, starting with Palm Sunday processions that commemorate the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem to fulfill the mission he believed God entrusted to him. Holy Week culminates in the commemoration of the Last Supper, and Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection, which Christians believe happened so that God and humankind could be reconciled.
That is the theological meaning of redemption. However, the core of this word deals with transforming adversity into blessing.
St. Ann’s parishioners believe that a very local spiritual redemption also took place last summer when they were faced with unexpected exile. The sanctuary of their church at Clinton and Montague streets was closed for emergency repairs after plaster fell. Having to improvise a new worship space in their Parish Hall, the congregation discovered a new way of doing liturgy and grew stronger in the process.
“The plaster fell as a band was rehearsing,” said the Rev. John E. Denaro, rector of the landmark parish, which was founded in the mid-19th century. “What I learned is that sound can’t break things, but it can shake things loose.”
“It was imperative to protect the congregation and the wider community,” he added.
Thus, the sanctuary was closed and thorough repairs took about nine months to complete.
“All of the loose parts were identified and have been reinforced and stabilized, including the ornamental plaster, and we have taken steps to stabilize plaster above the ceiling, which is something we would never have guessed we needed to do,” said Denaro. “The plaster has been reinforced. We’re returning to the whole use of the church, including the organ. We have been assured by our architect, engineers and contractors that we are 100 percent safe in there.”
Wardens Claudia Barber and Léon Willis told the Brooklyn Heights Press that the congregation proved to be resilient.
“I think the challenges probably came early on because it was so sudden and so surprising — and then rearranging and reconfiguring things and wondering from a leadership perspective about how this would affect the parish and community. It quickly became clear that this experience would be a positive one for us, the parishioners,” Barber said.
Moreover, closing the sanctuary affected neighborhood groups that use the space, Fr. Denaro explained.
“When we had to close the sanctuary to public use, it meant that the high school graduations that usually happen there and other events like the Brooklyn Book Festival that have used the space for the last five years had to be relocated. Accommodating other regular events — concerts, spoken word programs, public forums and art exhibits [part of the Forum @ St. Ann’s] — also had to be reconsidered,” he said.
From June 2016 until last month (including time budgeted in for spring cleanup preparation), the parishioners worshiped in the Parish Hall around the corner from the sanctuary. Concurrent to the worship times of 9:30 and 11:15 a.m., other ministries like the Sandwich Sundays Program were also taking place.
“I think part of it is — in having only one space, what sometimes happens is that there are multiple uses taking place simultaneously,” Willis said. “On the one hand, we’ll be in the middle of a service and you’ll have people in the back who are making sandwiches to help feed those in need. You get the good news from the Gospel lesson and we see the good work behind it. It’s a really magical experience that way — a great blessing — to realize that it’s not simply a matter of reading words off a page, but having an active ministry.”
Willis added, “Frankly, this has reinvigorated the parish in a way, whether it’s a matter of our coming to terms with how close-knit a group we are or experiencing our liturgy in a new way — one that is building on our physical proximity and is focused on why we are truly in that space. It’s an invigorating experience to really focus on what’s most important: people coming to table to share this special meal [the Eucharist], and there is another meal being prepared opposite that table.”
Both the 9:30 and 11:15 a.m. services on Palm Sunday began in the Parish Hall on the Montague Street side of the building. The liturgists then led the congregation around the block, singing the traditional Palm Sunday hymn “All Glory, Laud and Honor” in a cappella fashion. They then gathered at the Clinton Street entrance to the sanctuary and prayed as the sliding doors were opened. Entering the church, they continued singing the hymn, this time to organ accompaniment. The worship continued with the traditional dramatic reading of the Passion according to St. Matthew.
* * *
Ministry Has Donated 14,000 Sandwiches to Those in Need
Parishioners at St. Ann & the Holy Trinity Church have produced more than 14,000 sandwiches as part of the Sandwich Sunday ministry, now in its fourth year.
The parish works with CAMBA, an organization that helps homeless New Yorkers and “works to takes a comprehensive approach to helping individuals, families and communities thrive, offering integrated programs in economic development, education and youth development, family support, health, housing and legal services,” according to its website.
So far, St. Ann’s is the only local parish that provides food for CAMBA on Sundays.
“We offered to make sandwiches, and they’re very happy to have us,” said Rosanne Limoncelli, co-chair of parish outreach programs.
“Every Sunday after church — between the two services, actually — a bunch of us bring supplies. Some people donate money. Some people make sandwiches at home and bring them. So, between services, we make as many sandwiches as we can; sometimes it’s 40, sometimes it’s 140.”
Limoncelli and her husband John Bickerton then drive the sandwiches in a cooler to the CAMBA office at the Park Slope Armory. CAMBA picks up the sandwiches and takes them to The Gathering Place, a shelter in Brownsville.
“You see, a lot of their guests have jobs, but they don’t have homes,” Limoncelli pointed out. “So CAMBA hands out the sandwiches to the shelter guests to take to work for their lunches. It’s a perfect ministry for those who do not have a lot of time.”
For other congregations that might be interested in this outreach, CAMBA requests hearty sandwiches filled with lots of meat and/or cheese. Sandwiches can also be meat-only (such as cold cuts) or cheese-only, to take into consideration various dietary needs. CAMBA requests that no condiments be added as these are provided to their shelter guests. Also, donors are asked to omit lettuce or tomato (to avoid food getting soggy).
* * *
Call for Solidarity at Coptic Church Here
Borough President Eric L. Adams announced on Monday an emergency prayer vigil for the victims of the deadly Palm Sunday church bombings in Egypt that left at least 44 people dead and more than 100 others injured.
The Borough President was set to join with Coptic Christians inside the Coptic Orthodox Church of St. George in Dyker Heights on Tuesday evening, April 11. Urging all Brooklynites to extend support to the grieving Coptic community in Brooklyn, Adams planned to denounce these latest acts of terror and pray for peace.