By Francesca Norsen Tate, Religion Editor
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
A Parent’s Experience: Listening with Our Son to King’s Speech
By Tania Kleckner
My husband and I have been members of Plymouth Church in Brooklyn Heights for a little over 10 years. I have never doubted that this is where we belong; the reasons for which were recently reinforced by an incredible experience I was able to share with my son Connor and more than 300 of his fellow students, the staff and faculty from Brooklyn’s Mary McDowell Friends School, a private school for students with learning disabilities.
We joined Plymouth two years after 9-11 when we found ourselves seeking a spiritual community that could help us make sense of what had happened to our city. We wanted a strong children’s program for our two sons Connor and Finn, then just five and two, and a church that would aid our desire to strengthen our faith. It took only a single visit to know Plymouth was the place for us.
It wasn’t until after we joined Plymouth that we heard about its storied history and connection to the civil rights movement. We learned that Plymouth was integral in the fight to free slaves during Harriet Beecher Stowe’s time and that Stowe’s own brother, Henry Ward Beecher, an abolitionist and reformer, was Plymouth’s first pastor. Beecher was a fierce abolitionist and under his leadership, Plymouth Church became the ‘Grand Central Station’ of the Underground Railroad.
Abraham Lincoln was invited to speak at Plymouth Church in 1860 and, despite a last minute venue change canceling that appearance, Lincoln still stopped at Plymouth, attending services there during that same New York trip. A plaque commemorating his visit marks the pew he sat in. “Pretty awesome,” I thought. I’m enormously proud to be a member of a congregation with this extraordinary abolitionist history.
Many congregants, myself included, knew that MLK had preached at Plymouth Church in 1963 after being invited to commemorate its designation as a National Historic Landmark.
That visit came alive for us two years ago when a recording of his speech, titled “The American Dream,” was found in our church basement. Wow! The church historian had the recording restored and digitized and on Feb. 9, 2013, 50 years after Martin Luther King Jr. delivered it, the current congregation had the amazing opportunity to hear those very same words in the Plymouth sanctuary once again.
As a proud parishioner, hearing this speech in the very place where Dr. King originally spoke, was such a moving experience that I got goose bumps and my eyes welled with tears. The recording was crystal clear, Dr. King’s voice and cadence, so familiar. It was as if he was there in front of us. As the speech continued I was struck by how relevant it still was. I wondered what could have been accomplished and how much further civil rights would have progressed if he hadn’t been assassinated.
Soon after, while attending a parent council meeting at Mary McDowell Friends School, where my son Connor is a student, I couldn’t help veering off topic to share my experience with the group. I told them about the recording and how deeply it affected me. Later that day I was contacted by assistant head of school Beth Schneider who asked if I thought Plymouth would permit the students to come in and listen. Without hesitation I said “yes”, loving the idea and thrilled that I could facilitate the connection. While the “I Have a Dream” is known to many, hearing this speech, “The American Dream” would help Mary McDowell Friends School students better understand and connect with Dr. King’s messages of non-violence, peace and equality for all.
Last month, to honor Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, the entire student body and faculty from Mary McDowell went to Plymouth Church to hear the recording I’d first experienced the year before. Connor, who learns about and experiences the values in Dr. King’s messages every school day through the Mary McDowell Friend’s School teaching of Quaker values, termed the speech ‘inspiring’. “I was inspired and impressed by Dr. King’s dedication to non-violence in the fight for the rights of African Americans. The speech really kept me engaged and I found his message about freedom powerful and clear.” An impressive reaction from a 16 year old boy with ADHD and learning disabilities!
Not only was Connor impressed by the speech, but what continues to impress our family is Plymouth’s ongoing commitment to freedom. Today, Plymouth is raising awareness and funds to fight modern-day slavery and human trafficking and I am very proud to be a part of the Plymouth community. My dream is that playing the speech will become an annual tradition for Plymouth and Mary McDowell, perhaps even expanded to include other Brooklyn schools. I know I could hear that speech again and again. It is truly a message of hope for all of humanity.
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Plymouth Church, Mary McDowell School Team Up So Students Experience King’s ‘American Dream’ Speech
Plymouth Church hosted the entire Mary McDowell Friends School, K-12 student body for a particularly meaningful field trip. These students were given the honor of listening to the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “American Dream” speech in the space where it was first
Mary McDowell Friends School, which is grounded in the Quaker tradition, serves children with learning disabilities. The three campuses, dedicated to the Elementary, Middle and Upper Schools, are in Cobble Hill, Carroll Gardens and Brooklyn Heights, respectively. The students listed to the civil right leaders’ speech watching while looking at projected photographs of Martin Luther King. MMFS was the first school to listen to the 45 minute speech.
King’s ‘American Dream’ speech is distinct from his ‘I Have a Dream’ speech. King, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964 for his work towards racial equality, was assassinated in April, 1968.
Below, Plymouth congregant and Mary McDowell parent Tania Kleckner shares her firsthand experience in bringing the school and church together for this unique experience.
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Brooklyn Interdenominational Choir Will Narrate Histories through Song
The Brooklyn Interdenominational Choir, under the direction of Pastor Frank Haye, celebrates both Black History Month, (which lasts through Feb. 28) and Women’s History Month (every March). BIC’s upcoming concert – “A look at Black history, Women's history, our history as told through song,” will feature guest artists: the world-renowned Boys and Girls Choir of Harlem Alumni Ensemble and The Imani Singers of Medgar Evers College.
This is a fundraising concert for the choir's upcoming trip to Verona, Italy in April. All donations are welcome.
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Brooklyn for Peace Concert Blends Art, Climate Advocacy
Brooklyn for Peace, which marks its 30th anniversary year during 2014, presents “The Pipeline Follies!”
This fundraiser concert will support the Coalition Against the Rockaway Pipeline. Attendees will enjoy music, magic and art during this event, hosted at the Park Slope United Methodist Church (410 6th Avenue at 8th Street, Park Slope)
For the past two years, Coalition Against the Rockaway Pipeline (CARP) has been campaigning to stop the Rockaway pipeline. Regardless of the outcome of this struggle, CARP will continue to educate people about climate change and mobilize against what it believes is corporate control of public resources, or “Big Energy.”
Performers, as of press time, will include CARP’s own Jonathan Fluck, thespian and master of ceremonies; and Lois Pinetree, Floyd Bennett Field gardener, poet, and singer.
Other luminaries include folksingers Peter Pasco and Joel Landy, Such as Us, the Lords of Lichtenstein, Pastrami (song/guitar/trickster), Ay Mayo! (Afro-Columbian drums of power), Elizabeth Soychak (the Lady in the Green Dress from The Highline Renegade Cabaret),
Eric Walton (Occupy the Pipeline’s master of the magical arts), and—direct from the People’s puppets of Occupy Wall Street—the medieval mixed media known as a Cantastoria.
Admission is $10, or whatever you can afford. Nearest train: F/G to 7th Ave at 9th Street.
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Book, Talk on Cinema Judaica Focus on Films’ Influence on WWII
Several Israel film festivals have been featured in recent editions of Faith in Brooklyn. This Friday, Congregation B’nai Avraham, Brooklyn Heights’ Orthodox synagogue, will present “Cinema Judaica: The War Years, 1939-49.”
Leading this evening is Ken Sutak, a New York attorney who specializes in entertainment law. He is the author of the recently-released book, “Cinema Judaica: The War Years, 1939-49.”
He offers an unique look at how Jewish-themed movies prepared Americans for war and rallied the Allies to victory. A traveling exhibit based on this book is currently crossing North America. Ken Sutak has also authored or contributed to other books, including “The Great Motion Picture Soundtrack Robbery.”
His presentation will begin during the dinner/lecture 6:30 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 28, with Shabbat services preceding starting at 5:28 (relative to candle lighting time). Reservations are a must: via email to email@example.com or the synagogue office: 718-596-4840, ext. 11. Admission for members is $25; for non-members is $30, and children under age 12 is $10.
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Churches Present Creative Ways of Observing Lent
Throughout the history of Christianity, Lent has been a time of preparation, repentance and renewal. This season begins on Ash Wednesday in the Latin Rite, (Western Roman Catholic) and many Protestant denominations; Ash Monday in the Eastern Rite Catholic branches and Clean Monday in the Eastern Orthodox Church. The culmination of Lent was in Holy Week with the commemoration of the Passion, Crucifixion and burial of Jesus, and then his resurrection, which is celebrated on Easter as the central feast of Christianity.
Over the centuries, Lent has been the time for new catechumens (candidates for Baptism) to prepare for this rite of full inclusion in their Christian communities. Lent is also a time for all Christians to reflect on their lives, to identify with the sacrifices they believe that Jesus Christ made on humankind’s behalf, and to live lives of reconciliation with God and each other.
Congregations have various ways and programs to live out Lent, including Bible studies, and some very creative approaches.
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Salsa dancing, prayer and the imposition of ashes will be blended at First Presbyterian Church of Brooklyn this Ash Wednesday.
The congregation begins Lent in the sanctuary with movement and prayer and the imposition of ashes. Salsa, the Latin dance, will be taught as part of worship. An announcement invites the wider community “to join in this expression of our awareness of our mortality, as the holy season begins. Those not wishing to dance may join in prayer or making the music.” The service begins at 7 p.m. First Presbyterian Church is at 124 Henry St., near Clark St.
The Revs. Julie Hoplamazian and Sarah Kooperkamp, respectively of Grace Church and St. Ann & the Holy Trinity Church, join forces to lead the series, “Lost and Found in the Wilderness: A Journey Through Lent.”
Both priests are assistant to the rector at their respective parishes.
The backdrop to this series is the Biblical understanding of the wilderness: is a place where the ancient Israelites wandered for 40 years, a place where prophets went to be purified, a place from which John the Baptist emerges and where Jesus is tempted and tested.
In this Lenten series, participants will contemplate the various ways that wilderness is understood in the Holy Scriptures, address the experience of wilderness is in each person’s life.
All sessions will be held at St. Ann & the Holy Trinity Church, at Montague and Clinton streets, and will include Bible Study, reflection, conversation and prayer. Each session runs from
7-8:15, on Thursdays, March 13 to April 10.
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Our Lady of Lebanon Cathedral will hold a Parish Mission during the Season of Great Lent. It will take place every Friday evening at 7 p.m. during Lent.
Held every Friday at 7 p.m., the Parish Mission includes praying the Stations of the Cross, a homily and a meal. His Excellency, Bishop Elias Zaidan of the Eparchy of Our Lady of Lebanon (the Western Diocese) will be the homilist on Friday, March 7.
Immediately following services a traditional Lenten meal will be offered in the Social Hall. The ladies of the Confraternity of the Immaculate Conception will prepare the first Lenten Meal of the season. Each week a different organization of the Cathedral will sponsor the Lenten Meal.
On Monday itself (March 3), ashes will be distributed after the 10 a.m. Divine Liturgy and again in the evening at 7 p.m.
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Brooklyn Congregations United, a faith-based community organization seeking to empower grassroots leaders to transform their communities & neighborhoods, participates in a Lenten Prayer Vigil at St. Stephen's Lutheran Church
Everyone is welcome to the prayer vigil, on the weekend before the start of Lent: Feb. 28 from 6 p.m.-midnight and on Saturday, March 1 from 6 a.m.-6 p.m. St. Stephen’s Church, a
congregation of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) is at 2806 Newkirk Ave, between Rogers and Nostrand avenues.
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Volunteers Sought for March 29 Church Beautification Work Day
Our Lady of Perpetual Help Basilica seeks volunteers to help with a church beautification project in preparation for Easter. The parish will hold a volunteer work day, themed “Working Together 4 OLPH,” on Saturday, March 29.
The parish is hoping to get at least 150 volunteers who will donate three hours of work for the parish. Fr. John McKenna, an associate pastor (parochial vicar) at the parish said, “The word stewardship is en vogue in church circles. Stewardship asks all of us to be generous with our time, our treasure and talent. We give back to God from the gifts God has given us with generosity. It is an act of worship.” He adds, “The job that day is a big one, to paint the iron fence around the church, rectory and schools. This is a whole city block! We want our church to look beautiful for Easter.”
Fr. McKenna points out, “Many of our parishioners live on fixed incomes. Others are immigrant people. They work hard to provide for their families here and to send money home to help their loved ones in their home country. They do not have a lot of money, but they are more than willing to give very generously of their energy and hard work. “We also want this project to be a community building exercise. We want that all parts of our parish: the old, the young, all the different ethnic groups to work joyfully together. We want each of us to look at the finished project and feel pride at what we did together.”
The volunteer work day will run from Saturday, March 29 from 9 a.m.-noon. Our Lady of Perpetual Help (OLPH) parish is on 5th Avenue between 59th and 60th Street. It is accessible by the B-63 bus and the R train.
People can sign up at the parish office, call in advance at 718-492-9200 or come early on Saturday March 29th and sign up that same day. A lunch will be provided for those who work. Cash donations gratefully accepted to help pay for paint and brushes.
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Milestones In Faith: Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church Sunset Park
The year 2014 marks the 120th anniversary of the dedication of the first church building for Our Lady of Perpetual Help parish, on the border of Sunset Park and Bay Ridge. That building was wooden. Bishop McDonnell dedicated that church in January, 1894 in honor of Mary, Our Lady of Perpetual Help.
Fast forward to about 15 years later in the parish’s history: A second, larger church— called the lower church— was completed and dedicated on Easter Sunday, 1909. The upper church was finally completed in 1928.
History trivia that isn’t so trivial: It took a fundraiser to mystically boost the completion of the church building: By the winter of 1909 the church was nearly completed, but much of the construction stopped. For more than a month, February 16 to March 23, a “mammoth fair” was held inside the nearly finished structure. It was, we can assume, the first parish Bazaar, and it was a tremendous success. Pope Paul VI in 1968, named Our Lady of Perpetual Help as a Basilica in conjunction with the 75th Anniversary of the parish. Fr. John McKenna, an associate pastor, explains that, “At the time it was the only basilica in Brooklyn. Since then St. James Cathedral was also named a Basilica. In 2013 Regina in Bensonhurst was named a basilica. It is a special designation for churches that are beautiful and have a long history of faith and devotion. They are "minor basilicas" Major ones: St. Peter's, St Mary Major, St Paul's, St John Lateran in Rome.”
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Milestone in Faith: Sacred Hearts Church in Carroll Gardens
The Dedication of Sacred Heart Church took place on Feb. 22, 1907, according to an online parish history. The church has since merged with St. Stephen’s Church and is called Sacred Heart-St. Stephen.
The history states: “The Catholic Mission of the Italian Colony of the City of Brooklyn was formally begun in the year 1882 under the title of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary by Fr. Joseph Fransioli. This mission was the first Roman Catholic parish community established specifically for Italian immigrants in the Diocese of Brooklyn, which comprised the whole of Long Island, including the counties of Kings, Queens, Nassau and Suffolk. Sacred Hearts was established as a national parish that served neighborhood parishioners but also welcomed all Italians. Initially, the new Italian parish occupied space belonging to St. Peter’s church, at the corner of Warren and Hicks Streets.”