News and Trends From Brooklyn’s Houses of Worship
Francesca Norsen Tate, editor
Ben Bankson, ‘Leader in Church,
Family and Community’ Is
Saluted on His 80th Birthday
Longtime Brooklyn Heights and Willowtown resident Ben Bankson was certainly feted on his 80th birthday.
Family, friends, members of Grace Church-Brooklyn Heights and of the wider community gathered together at Grace Church’s North Room and Guild Hall, with almost 80 guests attending, about one for each of his years.
Ben was born in Sioux City, Iowa in March, 1932, with his family’s Swedish roots n the province of Varmland and the Mission Covenant Church, (which Swedish immigrants to America established). Ben realized his vocation and future in the church press field while at North Park University in Chicago; he edited the North Park College News in 1951-52. He then went on to be city editor at the Daily Iowan, and entered North Park Theological Seminary, graduating with his master’s degree in divinity. Immediately after graduation, he became the managing editor at the Covenant Church’s official publication. Ben has traveled extensively, and fondly remembers his trans-Atlantic voyages with family on the Cunard ship line. He moved to Manhattan in 1975 upon starting a new job as editor of the American Bible Society Record. He then became director of publications for the cooperative Lutheran Council of the USA. Until his 2003 retirement, Ben worked at newspapers and publications for the Lutheran Council and Lutheran World Federation. (The Lutheran Council ended in 1988 due to merger of three of the five sponsoring denominations. The publications spun off.
In 1975, Ben also planned and carried out a weekend celebration, in Sioux City, of his parents’ 50th wedding anniversary. This, along with his previous travels to Europe, started a kind of “side career”—his popular and successful organizing of family reunions on both sides of the Atlantic, that would really take off in 1999.
Not long after his move to NYC, Ben acquired a house, on Willow Place, that was built in 1846. He renovated the building and has lived there since 1975. He also joined Grace Church at that time, singing in first the Grace Choral Society and then the parish’s newly formed Adult Choir.
Everyone at Saturday’s dinner attributed Ben’s longevity to his joy of life, love of family, and zest for all he does. He has served as president of the Willowtown Association, which encompasses the blocks between Hicks St. and Furman St., and Joralemon St. to Atlantic Ave.
Two special highlights of Ben’s birthday gala were a DVD presentation titled “A Romp Through My Years,” with Ben providing the voice-over narration; and a song medley with “The Five Tenors” of the Grace Church Choir.
Producing “A Romp Through My Years were Ben’s niece Karen Bankson and her fiancé, Bill Mirsch, from Minnetonka, Minnesota. The song medley, “Homes, Sweet Homes….Around the USA,” was a humorous retrospective of all the places that Ben has called home, featuring both actual and parody lyrics of favorite songs: “I Was Stubborn,” from C-H-I-C-A-G-O; “Give My Regards to Broadway,” “The Rich People of Brooklyn,” “Nesting Time in Willowtown (adapted from the original “Nesting Time in Flatbush,” (from the musical, Oh Boy! by Jerome Kern and P.G. Wodehouse, 1917); and “Amazing Grace,” with special Grace Church parody lyrics by David Wenk. The Five Tenors of Grace Church Choir, Paul Batsel, Terry Morgan, Edward Trerise, David Wenk and Ben, have sung together for many years. Accompanying them was Paul Richard Olson, organist and choirmaster at Grace Church, who also shares Swedish roots from the same province and the Mission Covenant Church.
Saluting Ben as a “leader in church, family and community, the Rev. Stephen D. Muncie, rector of Grace Church, called everyone to “feast on the gift of Ben’s life” as he offered the closing benediction. Catering Ben’s birthday reception and dinner was Brooklyn-based EVENTfull, with co-owners Melody Ozdenak and Nigel Teare, who led a most professionally and smoothly-coordinated gala.
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House of the Lord Forum Calls
For Justice in Florida Teen’s Death
The senseless killing of an unarmed teenager named Trayvon Martin has galvanized religious communities all over the country into calling for justice. House of the Lord Church on Atlantic Avenue has joined the campaign, holding a community forum last Sunday.
Trayvon Martin, who was black, was shot and killed while walking home from a local convenience store in Florida, holding a bag of candy and a soda. His killer was white.
A number of social justice organizations such as MoveOn.org joined forces with Kevin Powell (activist, award-winning writer, and The Guardian blogger) and Akila Worksongs, along with Color of Change, to host a community forum at House of the Lord Church. Hip Hop artist & activist Jasiri X was scheduled perform a powerful new track, “A Song for Trayvon,” live, which calls for the arrest of Trayvon’s murderer, and a video was made of the performance to distribute to millions of people this week. The forum was being publicized through Facebook and other social media. Local broadcast agencies covered the event.
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Youth Retreat Participants
Receive Surprise Celebrity Visit
Submitted by Salma T. Vahdat
A chance visitor to Our Lady of Lebanon Maronite Cathedral, who dropped in for a daily Mass, once again found himself as an inspiring celebrity to a group of teens and young adults on retreat. The visitor happened to be the actor who portrayed Jesus in a controversial 2004 film.
The retreat began on Friday, March 16, when approximately 180 enthusiastic youth, young adults, chaperones and advisors congregated for the start of two days of prayer and reflection. They came from a five-state Eastern region representing parishes in Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Our Cathedral parish opened their arms and hearts to embrace the future of the Maronite Church in these United States. Our dynamic rector, Monsignor James Root, arranged the retreat and schedule. Therese Abi-Habib organized the parents and supplies.
The retreat’s theme was Prayer and our relationship with Jesus. It was suggested that we should keep our minds and hearts open to Jesus; to pray and listen for answers which will direct us onto a good path for our life. And then, on Saturday morning, the Holy Spirit worked through that openness to bring in James Caviezel, whose portrayal of Jesus in Mel Gibson’s film, The Passion of the Christ, actually did bring him both spiritual and physical challenges.
That morning, a gentleman and his wife, looking to attend Liturgy at the Cathedral, came in to find that our daily liturgy was cancelled due to the retreat. He introduced himself to Msgr. Root. Our surprise visitor was Jim Caviezel.
[Editor’s note: Caviezel was raised in a close-knit Catholic family, and insisted on observing Catholic mores in his acting.] He was most gracious and willing to answer questions posed to him by our youth. A summary of his talk related how he had pursued acting. He had been a basketball player in college and wanted to make it a career. He sustained an injury to his foot which sidelined that ambition. In despair for a direction to his life, he prayed. He said Jesus told him to be an actor. He auditioned for the role he subsequently portrayed but had been discouraged from doing so. Advisors said it would be a “one shot” deal and since the film was receiving negative vibes from Hollywood he would never get another opportunity. He ignored all the negativity. Today he is successful!
Caviezel told the crowd that he could never have imagined the suffering that Christ endured without that role. In carrying the heavy cross in the film he sustained a displaced shoulder. He was struck by lightning on the set. He suffered a few gashes from the whip in the whipping scene. When crucified the set was made frigid and he became so numb from cold that he could hardly gasp a breath. He said that all these trials were little as compared to the true Passion of Christ. You could have heard a pin drop…so rapt was the audience. He gave a great witness to the congregants. His theme of Prayer as a route to Jesus was the same as the theme of the Retreat.
The retreat had other highlights and blessings also. Rev. Vincent Farhat, pastor of St. Maron in Philadelphia and Msgr. James Root conducted the sessions with the MYO in the Social Hall while our Shepherd, Sayedna Gregory, addressed the young adults in the Chancery. Friday evening all attended the Stations of the Cross for Teens, written by youth from across the nation, specifically for youth. Following the Stations, the traditional Benediction of the Cross was prayed. The retreat sessions were begun at 9 p.m. Activities included trust building exercises, relays of twelve teams competing against one another and finally, sustenance…a pizza party!
Saturday morning began with prayer, Session 2 on Trust, Reconciliation and Divine Liturgy.
The meeting was a great success with old friendships renewed and new ones begun. We can hardly wait for next year’s meeting to see what the Holy Spirit has in store for us.
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The organization Communion and Liberation again sponsors its annual Way of the Cross over the Brooklyn Bridge on Good Friday, April 6.
Participants will congregate for the first station at St. James Cathedral-Basilica, on Jay St. in Downtown Brooklyn, at 10 a.m. After stopping for one of the prayer stations on the Brooklyn Bridge, the procession will follow the cross to a third station at City Hall Park in Manhattan, and a fourth station near Ground Zero. The final station will be at St. Peter’s Church, on Barclay Street, concluding at 1:30 p.m. At each station, there will be readings from the Passion, a meditation, a reflection and hymns. All are invited.
Church of St. Ann & the Holy Trinity (Episcopal) holds its annual Liturgy of the Palms and Montague St. Procession. Worshipers gather at the foot of Montague St. on the Brooklyn Promenade, and process to the church at Clinton and Montague streets for the Choral Eucharist. The parish’s Early Church, at 9:45, will have an indoor Procession of the Palms, around the sanctuary.
Monday of Holy Week (April 2)
Reconciliation Monday in all Catholic parishes around the Diocese of Brooklyn. Walk-in Confessions will be heard from 3 to 9 p.m. that day.
Monday through Wednesday
of Holy Week (April 2-4)
All Saints Episcopal Church in Park Slope offers Eucharist at noon.
Holy Thursday, April 5
St. Ann & the Holy Trinity Church holds the 7 p.m. Liturgy Proper for Maundy Thursday, with Foot-washing and Stripping of the Altar.
All Saints Episcopal Church in Park Slope offers the Liturgy and Eucharist at 7:30 p.m.
St. Charles Borromeo Church celebrates the Mass of the Lord’s Supper at 7 p.m. This is the last Mass offered until the Easter Vigil on Saturday night, April 7. There is no 12:10 p.m. Mass on Holy Thursday, as the diocesan Chrism Mass is customarily held on Holy Thursday at noon. The Chrism Mass is the occasion on which all priests renew their vows; and the chrism oils that are used in baptism, Confirmation and anointing are blessed at that service.
Our Lady of Refuge Catholic Church in Flatbush celebrates the Mass of the Lord’s Supper in a trilingual 7:30 p.m. liturgy.
Good Friday, April 6
St. Ann the Holy Trinity Church will be open for Prayer and Meditation from noon to 3 p.m., with Stations of the Cross at noon. The Liturgy for Good Friday will be observed at 7 p.m.
All Saints Episcopal Church (Park Slope) offers a Penitential Liturgy at noon, Stations of the Cross at 1 p.m., and Meditations on the Seven Last Words of Christ at 1:30 p.m.
St. Charles Borromeo Church holds a non-Eucharist Prayer Service for Good Friday at 3 p.m.
Our Lady of Refuge Catholic Church holds several Good Friday prayer services: English-language Liturgy of Morning Prayer at 10 a.m. in the chapel; Haitian community Prayers in the chapel, 10 a.m.; Spanish-language Seven Last Words of Christ, at 11 a.m. in the church; and Solemn Liturgy of the Lord’s Passion followed by outdoor procession dramatizing the Stations, at 3 p.m.
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Rabbi Potasnik Leads Seder
At Congregation Mount Sinai
It’s not too early to make reservations for Congregation Mount Sinai’s Passover Seder, on April 7.
Mount Sinai’s Seder emulates a family gathering. Everyone is welcome to share the beauty and spirit of the holiday—people of all ages, single or married, religious or secular. Majestic Caterers will provide a Kosher for Passover meal featuring: Gefilte fish, Eggs in Saltwater, Chicken Soup with Matzoh Balls, Brisket and Chicken, salad, Zucchini and Carrot Kugel, Potato Kugel, Macaroons, Fresh Fruit, Coffee, Tea & Soda. Rabbi Joseph Potasnik officiates.
Reservations must be made by Monday, April 2 through the synagogue: 718-875-9124, or via email: info@ congregationmountsinai.com.