First Estate: Maronite Cathedral Participates in 2nd Annual Sacred Sites Tour

Editor’s Note: Grant programs for houses of worship in Brooklyn, and a tour highlighting sacred space, provide the theme for this week’s religion news developments.
 
Contributed by Salma T. Vahdat
 
Our Lady of Lebanon Cathedral is among several houses of worship participating in the New York Landmarks Conservancy’s Second Annual Sacred Sites Open House and Tour, on the weekend of Saturday-Sunday, May 19-20.
 
The Sacred Sites Program is the country’s oldest and largest statewide program providing financial and technical assistance to help historic religious properties.
 
The Cathedral is a historic landmark in New York’s first suburb….Brooklyn Heights.
 
Our Lady of Lebanon’s first birth was as the Church of the Pilgrims, constructed in 1844. Conceived by Richard Upjohn, a noted architect of the day, it was a departure from his usual Gothic style of building as evidenced by Trinity Church in Manhattan and Grace Church in the Heights. It was the first Romanesque Revival Church built in the United States, one which was termed a medieval equivalent of a New England meetinghouse. The cornerstone was laid on the 224th anniversary of the landing of the Pilgrims at Plymouth. Construction continued until May, 1846 when its first service was conducted. Its pastor, Richard Storrs, Jr. was a notable American clergyman who was the keynote speaker at the dedication of the Brooklyn Bridge and founder of the Long Island Historical Society, now the Brooklyn Historical Society.
 
In 1934, as the population of the Heights changed and its membership declined the congregants merged with the nearby Plymouth Church which was also in decline at that time. Coincidentally our Maronite community was searching for larger quarters and, finally, in 1944, the Church of the Pilgrims was reborn as Our Lady of Lebanon Church and was designated in 1977 as the Cathedral of the Diocese of St. Maron-U.S.A.
 
Aside from the historical significance of the edifice, many artifacts contained in the Cathedral are of historic value. Our first pastor, ChorBishop Mansour Stephen, had the foresight and elegant taste to acquire, at auction, priceless pieces of history. The Cathedral doors were reclaimed from the French liner Normandy which sunk at its dock in New York. Depicted on the doors are ten medallions of the most famous cathedrals of France and a panel of the liner, Normandy. The interior doors were bought at auction from the famous Schwab mansion in NY. The bronze gates at our baptistery are 17th Century Italo/German in origin. The giant mural of Our Lady of Harissa above and behind the sanctuary was painted by the famed Lebanese artist, Saliba Douaihy. The windows were the first in the USA made in the “Gemmaux” process which featured superimposing colors of glass atop one another and fusing them to create the images. There is so much more to discover in the Cathedral.
 
We are delighted to be included among the 675 religious sites selected in New York State for this annual tour. The Conservancy approved a grant to the Cathedral last year for repairs to the edifice which will commence shortly. It is our responsibility to be good stewards to the beautiful building which has been entrusted to us. We share in the history of our environs and are a part of the mosaic which is Brooklyn Heights. Come visit us on Sunday, May 20. The Sacred Sites tour runs from 1 and 4 p.m. You will leave richer for the experience.
 
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Also taking part in the Sacred Sites tour:
 
• Congregation Beth Elohim (Eighth Avenue and Garfield Place in Park Slope). This temple is among the 40 historic sites vying for $3 million in grants. See story, below. As part of the Sacred Sites event, Congregation Beth Elohim will host a tour from 6 to 7 p.m. on Saturday, May 19; a Vienna to Hollywood concert from 7 to 8:30, with additional tours afterwards.
 
• Old First Reformed Church 729 Carroll Street at 7th Ave.) Sunday May 20, 1-5 p.m., Preservation Expert Michael Devonshire will speak 1-1:30 p.m. Aleeza Meir gives an organ recital 1:30-2:30 p.m. Tours are given 2:30-5 p.m.
 
• St. Paul’s Evangelical Lutheran Church of Williamsburg (334 South 5th Street), Saturday May 19th from 10am-4pm
 
• Temple Beth Emeth (83 Marlborough Road, (Prospect Park South) Saturday May 19th at 1 p.m. The Temple celebrated its centennial last year.

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Environment-Friendly
Church Receives Grant
 
The Church of St. Luke & St. Matthew, an Episcopal parish in Clinton Hill, has been selected for funding through NYC’s 2012 Green Infrastructure Grant Program.
 
The Green Infrastructure Grant Program received 39 applications with requested funds totaling more than $12 million. With so many applications, St. Luke & St. Matthew Church, through its proposal, demonstrated an outstanding ability to manage storm water and reinforce the goals and objectives of the Grant Program and Mayor Bloomberg’s vision, through PlaNYC, to shape a greener, greater New York. The church will be receiving $289,698.
 
The church, at 520 Clinton Avenue, is within the East River watershed. Multiple green infrastructure installations are proposed, including rain gardens that will collect water from disconnected roof leaders and permeable pavement near the church entry and rear driveway.
 
The Reverend Michael Sniffen, priest-in-charge, remarked, “The Church of St. Luke and St. Matthew is thrilled to move forward with our green infrastructure project made possible by generous funding from the DEP. We are confident that this project will become a model for other faith communities and non-profits working to green their neighborhoods and educate Brooklynites about the need for direct action to protect our urban environment.”
 
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Two Brooklyn Congregants Chosen
As Finalists for Preservation Grants
 
A synagogue in Park Slope and church in Bedford-Stuyvesant are among those competing for $3 million in grants.
 
Congregation Beth Elohim, a Reform temple on 8th Avenue and Garfield Place, and Brown Memorial Baptist Church, both in need of repair, are among 40 historic New York sites chosen last week as finalists through the Partners in Preservation. This program is a collaboration between American Express and the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
 
Congregation Beth Elohim suffered a roof collapse in its rotunda sanctuary just before the High Holy Days last fall. 
 
The City’s first-ever social media-powered preservation effort will allow the public to vote online for the preservation projects that they deem most important to them. Through May 21, New Yorkers, and anyone who loves New York, will help give away up to $1 million in grants. Voting can be done at www.PartnersinPreservation.com or www.Facebook.com/PartnersinPreservation.  
 
Participants can vote once a day, every day, for the same site or for different sites.  The top four vote-getters, to be announced May 22, are guaranteed to receive grants for their preservation projects.  A Partners in Preservation advisory committee of community and preservation leaders, will select sites that will receive the rest of the $3 million in grants.
To encourage voting, a “Preservation Station” vehicle will travel around New York City throughout the voting period, giving New Yorkers the opportunity to get their photos taken against the backdrop of their favorite sites and have those pictures projected onto buildings.  To find out locations of the “Preservation Station” readers may follow @PartnersinPres and @AmericanExpress on Twitter.
 
The finalist sites will also host an open-house weekend over May 5-6, for the public to visit and cast votes. Admission will be free or discounted and sites will be campaigning for votes with rich programming providing details and background on their histories. Foursquare users who follow the National Trust for Historic Preservation and check-in at select historic places across the U.S., including any of the 40 Partners in Preservation sites, during the voting period can earn the Preservation Nation badge to show their support of preserving New York’s iconic historic places.
 
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Prominent Brooklyn Clergy Endorse 
Hakeem Jeffries for Congress

 
Prominent Brooklyn clergy gathered on the steps of Brooklyn Borough Hall last week to announce their endorsement of Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries for Congress in New York’s 8th Congressional District.
 
Hakeem Jeffries has represented Brooklyn’s 57th district in the New York State Assembly since 2007. During his time in the state legislature, Assemblyman Jeffries has emerged as a champion for working families, advancing a progressive agenda with legislation to strengthen tenant regulations, protect the civil liberties of law-abiding New Yorkers during police encounters, reform state government in Albany, and facilitate the successful re-entry of formerly incarcerated individuals.
 
The Rev. Dr. Johnny Ray Youngblood, pastor of Mt. Pisgah Baptist Church, is himself a celebrated pastor and leader known for community-building. Dr. Youngblood said, “In the years that I’ve been privileged to serve the Brooklyn community, I have not met a man who has done more for the democratic process and has kept in touch with the communities that help put him in office than Hakeem Jeffries. Hakeem has shown himself, in every way, to be for the people, as well as of the people, and so today we support his candidacy for the Congress of the United States.”
 
Endorsing Jeffries, the Rev. Shaun J. Lee, pastor of Mt. Lebanon Baptist Church, said, “I have known Hakeem for several years now, and I can honestly say that he’s a hard worker and he’s just the kind of leader we need for Brooklyn,” said “Brooklyn is at a very interesting point in its history. I think with a leader like Hakeem Jeffries, we can go higher and help even more people in need.”
 
The Rev. Clinton Miller of Brown Memorial Baptist Church, speaking of Brooklyn’s having undergone dramatic changes, said, “Some of the changes have been good and responsible. But if you look closely, some of the changes must be critically examined…We’ve seen a lot of development that has made housing unaffordable, and we’ve seen the most number of foreclosures in our nation.” Rev. Miller said that Hakeem Jeffries “understands that change is good, but he also understands the fact that the true essence of Brooklyn—which made Brooklyn as marketable as it is nationwide—ought to be preserved.” Praising him for his intelligence, balance and wisdom, Pastor Miller said that Hakeem Jeffries, “has compassion, growing up at Cornerstone Baptist Church and being raised knowing what strong family is all about.”
 
Among the Brooklyn clergymen endorsing Assemblyman Jeffries at the April 24 ceremony were: Rev. Steven E. Carter of Mt. Ararat Baptist Church, in Ocean Hill; the Rev. Dr. Washington Lundy of Evening Star Baptist Church, the Rev. Dr. Fred A. Lucas of Brooklyn Community Church, the Rev. Lawrence E. Aker III of Cornerstone Baptist Church; the Rev. M. Ziddie Hamathiete of Wayside Baptist Church all in Bedford-Stuyvesant. As of press time for this column, Jeffries has also received endorsement from the Rev. Dr. DeVore Chapman of Greater Bright Light Missionary Baptist Church in East New York.