Brooklyn Religion Briefs for June 19

As part of LGBT Pride Month, St. Ann & the Holy Trinity Episcopal Church will host a screening of the Sundance-Award-winning documentary,  Love Free or Die.

This documentary is about the Rt. Rev. V. Gene Robinson, whose 2003 election as the first openly gay bishop in the Episcopal Church (for the Diocese of New Hampshire) was cause for both celebration and controversy throughout the Anglican Communion.

“Love Free or Die” follows Gene Robinson from his 2008 civil union, to the Lambeth Conference that same year, to Barack Obama’s inauguration, to the fight for gay marriage in New Hampshire, to the 2009 Episcopal General Convention, and up to the May consecration of the second openly gay Episcopal Bishop, Mary Glasspool.

Bishop Robinson officially retired from active ministry at the start of 2013. Last year, he visited Grace Church-Brooklyn Heights to preside at the ordination of the Rev. Matt Oprendek to the transitional diaconate.

The screening begins at 7 p.m. next Friday, June 28, according to the St. Ann & the Holy Trinity website. A suggested donation of $10 is requested for the screening. Please join us!

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Brooklyn’s Bishop DiMarzio Meets the New Pope

The Most Rev. Nicholas DiMarzio, Bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn, recently met Pope Francis I and took part in Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People, which convened in Rome this spring.

The June 8 edition of the Catholic diocesan newspaper, The Tablet, published an editorial by Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio on his visit with the Pope and his work with the Pontifical Council, on which DiMarzio has served since 2000.

This Pontifical Council, explains Bishop DiMarzio, “is responsible for the Church’s work in the field of migration and refugee protection. This year’s theme was Pastoral Solicitude of the Church in the Context of Forced Migration.

“The issue of forced migration today is very evident in our world. In Syria alone, over a million people have fled that civil war. Compounding that problem is that Syria was the safe haven for over one million Iraqi refugees, most of whom are Christians. Some of those have returned already to Iraq or have fled to other countries,” wrote Bishop DiMarzio.

“The situation in the Middle East is only the tip of the iceberg. There are also a great number of displaced persons in Africa as a result of civil conflicts there. When a person migrates in full freedom, whether in search of better economic conditions or better freedom, it is a planned decision. When people are forced to migrate, however, it is not quite as neat.”

Bishop DiMarzio participated in the Council’s three-day conference in preparation for the release of the new Vatican document titled, “Welcoming Christ in Refugees and Forcibly Displaced Persons,” which was released on June 6.

He points out, “Most importantly, the document deals with those who were trafficked or smuggled. Trafficked are those people who unwillingly fall prey to those who bring them to other countries for the purpose of sexual exploitation or other forms of work related exportation. In contrast, there are those who willingly put themselves in the hands of smugglers to reach a determined destination. The distinction between these two groups, however, many times fades because they all wind up in precarious situations. The Church’s role is always to defend human dignity and to care for those persons who find themselves in these marginalized situations.”

At the close of each plenary meeting of the Council, it is the custom of the Pope to receive the group in audience and to deliver a message regarding its work. “Pope Francis met with the group and delivered his message with great passion. One line sticks in my mind when he said, "My friends, do not forget the flesh of Christ which is in the flesh of the refugees; their flesh is the flesh of Christ.” This is such a clear comparison of the migrant to Christ following the mandate of Matthew 25, when at the Last Judgment, Christ tells us we will be judged by how we have treated the most vulnerable, especially the strangers in our midst. The Holy Father was very pleasant and engaging. Also, should you wish to read his message, it is available at www.vatican.va,” DiMarzio concluded.
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Plymouth Church’s Semi-annual ‘Stuff-A-Sack’ Will Help Fight Modern-Day Slavery

The prevention of trafficking and modern-day slavery is also a major commitment of Plymouth Church.

The landmark congregation is holding its semi-annual Underground Thrift Store Stuff-A-Sack Summer Clearance, featuring summer designer duds for men, women and children. The price is $25 per sack. The Underground Thrift donates 25 percent of its net proceeds to organizations that fight human trafficking and modern-day slavery.

Prior Stuff-a-Sack sales have attracted a big crowd and a spot on the local news. Shoppers can purchase as many $25 Underground Thrift Store Totes (a $5 value) as they like and can then stuff them with inventory. The Underground Thrift Store features a curated collection of upscale and designer clothing and accessories for women, men and children and beautiful collectibles for the home, in the loft space in historic Plymouth Church. All sales are final, and accessories and housewares are not included.

The Underground Thrift Store, Upstairs at Plymouth Church, is at 65 Hicks Street between Orange and Cranberry Streets in Brooklyn Heights. Hours on Sundays, June 23 and 30 are 12:30 p.m. to 4 p.m.
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Film Explores Igbo People’s Re-Discovery of Jewish Roots

The Brooklyn Heights Synagogue presents the critically acclaimed documentary Re-Emerging: The Jews of Nigeria, which is touring several U.S. cities.

The BHS’ presentation, on Thursday, June 20, at 7 p.m., is being made in loving memory of longtime congregant Ida Guterman, who died in May. The evening includes a Talkback with director Jeff Lieberman after the viewing.

The documentary opened May 17 at NYC's Quad Cinema. According to the website and Facebook pages for Re-Emerging: The Jews of Nigeria, this film is about the Igbo people. A description reads, “Like many young men and women growing up in Nigeria, Shmuel consistently heard that the Igbo people were Jews. Yet, two centuries of Christian Colonialism prevented him and many other Igbo from exploring that connection further. When an Internet café opens in his town, Shmuel begins by comparing Igbo traditions with Hebrew traditions. What he found starts him on a journey that eventually leads him to a community of thousands of Igbo Jews. Yet, despite the Igbo Jews’ passionate commitment to Judaism they are often met with outside scorn, family rejection and violence. .In a devoutly religious country, with an Igbo population of 25 million, the movement has the potential to re-define Judaism. It also raises questions of identity for countless African-Americans, many who were once Igbo.”

The viewing and Talkback are free for members. A $10 donation is requested for non-members.
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Grace Church’s Karen Loew Dedicates Talent and Time For Coast Guard Art Program

Grace Church parishioner and artist Karen Loew has melded her passion for fine arts with her deep respect for the work of the United States Coast Guard.

For many years, Loew and other artists around the nation have depicted the Coast Guard at work. They donate the paintings to the Coast Guard Art Program (COGAP). Earlier this month, she and the other artists in the 2013 juried exhibition received Public Service Awards for their work.

COGAP uses fine art as an outreach tool for educating diverse audiences about the United States Coast Guard. Through public displays at museums, galleries, libraries and patriotic events, Coast Guard art tells the story of the service’s unique contribution to the nation in its multifaceted roles as a military, humanitarian and law enforcement organization.

The Salmagundi Club of New York, a center for American art and culture for more than 140 years, co-sponsors the COGAP. Each year, a three-member jury selects pieces to include in the COGAP collection from submissions by the program’s talented cadre of volunteer professional artist members. All artwork accepted is donated to the United States Coast Guard. The art, which includes paintings in several mediums (such as oil and watercolor), and pen and ink drawings, is on exhibit during May and June at the Salmagundi Club. It then is moved to several venues around the United States.

Karen Loew’s oil painting, “Cleaning Up After Hurricane Sandy,” was selected for the 2013 Exhibit. As she is also chairperson of the Salmagundi Club’s COGAP Art Committee, Loew gave remarks at a June 6 Awards presentation reception.

“The United States Coast Guard has 11 missions. Many are depicted in our paintings on the walls around you,” said Loew. “COGAP has 1 mission: to immortalize in our paintings the courageous men and women of the United States Coast Guard, who bravely serve our country. We are artists from around the country who volunteer our time and talent, donating paintings to COGAP. We are not paid to do this. Each painting is a gift from the artist. The work is used to educate the public and to honor those who serve.”

This week, 30 of the 45 paintings were moved to the rotunda of Federal Hall National Memorial, 26 Wall Street. The show will remain there until September 10. Among the works are two paintings by Loew, “Cleaning Up After Hurricane Sandy”  and “Mission of Compassion" from the COGAP Collection 2011. The main entrance of Federal Hall is near the corner of Wall and Nassau streets. The wheelchair-accessible rear entrance is at 15 Pine Street, near the intersection of Pine and Nassau streets. It is highly recommended that all visitors use mass transit when traveling to Federal Hall. Hours are Monday - Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The exhibit is free and open to the public.

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New Evangelization Television (NET) invites the young and the young-at-heart to celebrate the 100th anniversary of St. Athanasius Catholic Church at a special fair and youth rally this Friday.

The Bensonhurst parish marked its anniversary liturgically on May 2, which is the feast day of its patron saint.

This Friday, St. Athanasius Parish’s centennial will resemble a birthday party, with  festivities, free rides, games, food and drinks, live musical performances, fireworks, a spectacular 3-D light show by QAV, and a special guest appearance. Actress Jenn Gotzon, NET TV’s own celebrity hostess has several film credits, including include roles in Ron Howard’s Frost/Nixon, Peter Mackenzie’s Doonby, God’s Country directed by Gotzon’s husband Chris Armstrong, and Ray Bengston’s Alone Yet Not Alone, to be released in September.

Comedian Joe Manno will give kids “A Fighting Chance” with his inspiring routine that encourages self-respect to help them avoid drug abuse, violence and joining gangs.

The festivities run from 5 to 9:30 p.m. this Friday, June 21. St. Athanasius Church is at 2154 61st Street (near Bay Parkway).

NET-TV is the television station serving the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn. Its former name was “The Prayer Channel.”

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Brooklyn Clergy Take Part In Freedom 2013 Conference Marking Juneteenth’s 150th Year

June 19—this Wednesday— marks the Sesquicentennial of the Emancipation Proclamation. Several notable clergy from Brooklyn are participating in Freedom 2013, a daylong conference of activities, job/career fair, business workshops, assistance on mortgages and foreclosures, rally and worship. The commemoration is popularly known as “Juneteenth.”

The Freedom 2013 Movement is an expansive initiative designed to motivate, educate and help to arm underserved communities throughout the nation and the world with empowering information, resources and tools to address such issues as business and economic parity; the foreclosure and underwater housing crisis. Freedom 2013 also champions health and wellness; African, Caribbean investment, missions and diaspora, global economic collaborations.

This Conference, which honors the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, features a vendor and exhibition market; community/bankers summit, small business development workshops, career fear/job training; Liberation Forum; and more.

 Spearheading Freedom 2013 is the Rev. Dennis Dillon, publisher of the New York Christian Times, in partnership with Dr. Johnny Ray Youngblood, pastor of Mt. Pisgah Baptist Church. They have joined forces with more than 100 convening clergy. The overarching mission is to promote economic empowerment and Diaspora trade.

Freedom 2013 begins at noon. The Emancipation Worship and Rally, with Rev. Dillon, the McDonald’s Gospel Choir; The Conscious Ones begins at 6:45 p.m.

Leading this effort is acclaimed minister, Rev. Dr. Johnny Ray Youngblood, Pastor of Mt. Pisgah and Pastor Emeritus of St. Paul Community Baptist Church.

A variety of sources, religious groups and NY Times writer and author Samuel G. Freedman salute the Rev. Dr. Johnny Ray Youngblood for his ministries.

Dr. Youngblood has major accomplishments to his credit including the Commemoration of the MAAFA, his intentional ministry to Black Men, the organization of the Brooklyn Congregations Together, and his work with the East Brooklyn Congregations and the Nehemiah Housing Project. However, the focus of this piece is on my behind-the-veil experience reading the expressions written by Rev. Youngblood in his 1999 publication of “I Honor My Father”.

He retired in 2009 as senior pastor of St. Paul’s Community Baptist Church, a ministry he began in 1974, when he rebuilt the membership of the then-struggling congregation in East New York.

Freedman writes, in a July 10, 2009 New York Times article titled “Letting Go, Gradually, of a Life Embracing the Ministry, Friedman writes,  “In African-American Christianity, perhaps more than in any other religious tradition in the United States, the coin of the ministerial realm is to build a church, both physically and numerically. Mr. Youngblood had done that, taking a congregation of 84 members and bringing it to 10,000, transforming a virtually bankrupt outfit into an institution with a $6.5 million annual budget, a 180-student school and a paid staff of more than 50.

Dr. Youngblood had earned a national reputation for his ministry to black men and his work with the Industrial Areas Foundation, most notably the creation of thousands of row houses and duplexes that revived devastated neighborhoods in East Brooklyn, the South Bronx, Baltimore and other places. They took their name — the Nehemiah Homes — from a sermon that Mr. Youngblood had given on the prophet who rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem." (Samuel G. Freedman is the author of a 1993 book about Dr. Youngblood, titled Upon This Rock.

Also participating are Brooklyn-based clergy: Bishop Eric Garnes, senior pastor of Tabernacle of Praise Cathedral on Utica Avenue; Bishop Orlando Findlayter, also Brooklyn-based, Senior Pastor of New Hope Christian Fellowship and d chairman of Churches United To Save And Heal, which has been part of a coalition to stop the layoffs, cutbacks and threats of closures at SUNY Downstate Medical Center. The coalition includes Brooklyn for Peace and several other clergy, union workers, community activists, patients and Brooklyn residents. They will lead seminars and worship. Joining them is Former ACORN Chief Organizer Bertha Lewis who founded and The Black Institute, a new think tank that aims "to shape intellectual discourse and dialogue and impact public policy uniquely from a Black perspective (a perspective which includes all people of color in the United States and throughout the Diaspora).” Lewis is featured in the current issue of Essence magazine as among the 28 most influential black women. As controversial as ACORN became in some political and ideological circles, Bertha Lewis has been recognized and honored as a foremost community activist and organizer.

The Juneteenth Freedom Conference takes place at the Riverside Church, 490 Riverside Drive, between West 120th & 122nd streets in Manhattan.