The First Estate: February 15, 2012

Lenten Series Combines

Contemplative Prayer and Chant

Grace Church-Brooklyn Heights will be expanding its regular Tuesday evening Centering Prayer group to include Taizé chanting, a simple, contemplative form of musical worship.  Leading the Taizé chanting will be Grace Church Seminarian Matt Oprendek, an accomplished pianist who will be working with different musicians at each service. In addition to the chanting, the program will include 20 minutes of centering prayer plus lectio divina, contemplative reading of a Scripture passage.

Taizé chants or “short songs” have a meditative character as they are repeated again and again. Using just a few words, these chanted prayers express a basic reality of faith, quickly grasped by the mind. As the words are sung over many times, this reality gradually penetrates one’s whole being. Meditative singing thus becomes a way of listening to God. It allows everyone to take part in a time of prayer together and to remain together in attentive waiting on God, without having to fix the length of time too exactly.

Taizé songs are also known to sustain personal prayer. According to the Taizé Community’s website (based in France): “Through them, little by little, our being finds an inner unity in God. They can continue in the silence of our hearts when we are at work, speaking with others or resting. In this way prayer and daily life are united. They allow us to keep on praying even when we are unaware of it, in the silence of our hearts.”

The Taize/Centering Prayer series will begin on Tuesday, February 28, at 7 p.m., and continue on March 6, 13, 20, and 27, at Grace Church Brooklyn, 254 Hicks Street in Brooklyn Heights. All are welcome.

The Centering Prayer Group’s regular format will resume on April 3rd, during Holy Week.  

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St. Ann & the Holy Trinity Church observes Ash Wednesday, February 22, with Prayers and the Imposition of Ashes during two segments, 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. and noon to 2 p.m. St. Ann’s and other Episcopal parishes in western Brooklyn along the waterfront will participate in a Deanery service of Holy Eucharist with Imposition of Ashes at 7 p.m., hosted at St. John’s Episcopal Church, 139 St. John’s Place in Park Slope.

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During the weeks of Lent, St. John’s Church in Park Slope invites the community to give up one’s regular routines and take up new disciplines—specifically on Wednesday evenings for contemplation and reflection on the Gospels.

Participants will gather in the Church from 7-8 pm each Wednesday to listen to meditative readings from Holy Scripture. Candles will be lit but the electric light in the church will be kept to a minimum during this period to enhance the experience.  Worshipers will be asked to arrive and leave in silence. The Gospel reflections: St. Mark (February 29); Parables of the Kingdom: Selections from The Gospel of St. Luke (March 7); Selections from The Gospel of St. Matthew (March 14); Selections from The Gospel of St. John (March 21).

The last Wednesday of the series (March 28) will have a different format:  praying the Stations of the Cross and a light Lenten Dinner during which participants will discuss their shared and personal Lenten journeys.

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Medgar Evers’ President Speaks

At Church’s Black History Month Event

First Presbyterian Church welcomes guest speaker Dr. William L. Pollard, President of Medgar Evers College of The City University of New York (CUNY), at the congregation’s ongoing Black History Month Observance, on Sunday, February 26. Dr. Pollard has served as president of Medgar Evers—the only traditionally Black college in New York State—since 2009.

Before becoming Medgar Evers College’s president, Dr. Pollard served as vice president for the Office of Access and the Advancement of Public Black Colleges and Universities for the National Association for State Universities and Land Grant Colleges. In that post Dr. Pollard worked to promote public universities, especially the 1890s land grant institutions which provided for the education and training of African-Americans in the South. Prior to that, Dr. Pollard was president of the University of the District of Columbia, the only public university in Washington, D.C. and the nation’s only urban land grant university. He was the dean of the Syracuse University College of Human Services and Health Professions, dean of the Syracuse University School of Social Work for 10 years, and dean and founder of the Grambling State University School of Social.

Dr. Pollard’s many awards and honors include the Social Worker of the Year Award from the National Association of Social Workers, Central New York Chapter, and he has published numerous articles and papers in professional journals and lectured extensively on cultural and racial diversity in venues across the country. Dr. Pollard received his doctorate in policy and planning from the University of Chicago School of Social Administration, his M.S.W. from the University of North Carolina School of Social Work, and a B.A. from Shaw University.

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First Presbyterian Church also observes Black History Month through the Midweek Boost Thurman Series. Participants will gather on Wednesday evenings at 7 p.m., listening to historic recordings of sermons delivered by Dr. Howard Thurman, in an atmosphere of quiet meditation and contemplation in the candlelit sanctuary.  Fellowship follows afterwards upstairs in the Elliot Room.

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Support Workshops Offered

For Job Seekers, Caregivers

The Jewish Board of Family & Children’s Services offers programs for those in job searches, caregivers for loved ones with dementia, and explorers of meditation practices. The groups will meet in synagogues around Brownstone Brooklyn.

Job seekers who need ways to stay connected and motivated during periods of transition are invited to join a new drop-in group forming in Brownstone Brooklyn. Join with other job seekers for mutual support, brainstorming, action tips and more as participants work on next steps. A JBFCS Connect to Care clinician will facilitate this group, which convenes on Wednesdays, February 15 and 29 and March 14 and 28, from 10 to 11 a.m. For more information and to pre-register, call (212) 632-4602 or email

Caring for Loved Ones with Alzheimer’s and Dementia is a workshop that will examine the different manifestations of dementia, and how it affects the behavior of those with Alzheimer’s and related disorders. A guest expert will help the group explore how best to care for  loved ones when they exhibit changes in behavior and/or personality, and how to take care of oneself in the process.

The Caring for Loved Ones workshop meets at Congregation Beth Elohim in Park Slope on Wednesday, February 22, at 7:30 p.m. For more information about the workshop contact Gloria Blumenthal at (212) 632-4676 or RSVP by calling Lauren Shenkman at (718) 768-3814 Ext. 242 or

The Kane Street Synagogue hosts the JBFCS’s Meditation, Melody and Movement workshop this Thursday, February 16, 6:30 to 8 p.m. Participants will experience a special evening of rejuvenation and relaxation, exploring together a mix of meditation styles, gentle movement and breath work, and music, to bring each person to a place of relaxation and contentment. No meditation or yoga experience necessary, just bring yourself and an open mind. There will be opportunity for questions and discussion. Maxine Skurka and Jessica Klaitman, meditation guides and Connect to Care Resource Specialists, will conduct the workshop. Pre-registration required. Call 212-632-4602 or email

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Brooklyn’s Heritage Ensemble Presents

Another ‘We Got Rhythms’ Encore

The Brooklyn-based Heritage Ensemble, which has grown widely popular for its blend of Hebrew melodies and Afro-Caribbean jazz styles, gives an encore performance of “We’ve Got Rhythms,” on Saturday, February 24.

“We’ve Got Rhythms” is an interactive musical performance of the Afro-Cuban and Brazilian rhythms underlying The Heritage Ensemble’s arrangements. The ensemble will play selections from its latest CDs “Celebrations” & “A Fresh Take” as well as its forthcoming (2012) CD “Obrigado Brasil!”

Special guest artist Shauli Einav and percussionist Oba Allende join Eugene Marlow, founder and leader of The Heritage Ensemble, and its performers for “We’ve Got Rhythms,” at the Nuyorican Poets Café, 236 E. 3rd Street (between Avenues B & C. Their one set begins at 8 p.m. on February 24. Tickets: $12; $7 Students with valid school ID.

The New York City Jazz Record described the Heritage Ensemble as “A cross cultural collaboration that spins and grooves.”

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Our Lady of Refuge Church’s

Organ Restoration Makes Progress

Last fall, Grace Church-Brooklyn Heights hosted a well-attended, successful benefit concert with concert organist Stephen Tharp to benefit the Kilgen Organ Restoration Project at Our Lady of Refuge Church in Flatbush. This restoration project continues to receive boosts as it progresses.

Joseph Vitacco, chairperson of the Organ Committee, reports in biweekly updates by email and on the Facebook social network, a single $2,000 donation was received in January. New Kilgen-style stopkeys were installed; a Peterson relay arrived and was installed in the console, and new contacts were installed on the pedalboard. Vitacco reports that the committee continues working to raise the remaining needed balance of $54,260.

February 15, 2012 - 11:50am



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