Landmark Church names Fr. John E. Denaro as Rector

The Church of St. Ann & the Holy Trinity has named its current Priest-in-Charge, the Rev. John E. Denaro, as rector. The announcement was made public in the Sunday, July 14 edition of the parish’s Good News.

Fr. Denaro has served the landmark Episcopal parish as priest-in-charge since March, 2011. An announcement by Church Wardens Syd Farley and Frank Kain in the parish’s Good News reads, “Fr. Denaro has demonstrated his desire to increase our numbers, utilize our unique facilities and make our presence known in the neighborhood and the wider community. Fr. John, as we know him, has made himself a part of our life together. He has shared his gifts of organizing and producing special events as well as his deep understanding of the traditions of our church and its rituals.”

He has also built on the healing work of his predecessor, the Rev. Angela V. Askew, who served as priest-in-charge at St. Ann & the Holy Trinity Church from 2002 until her retirement three years ago.

According to the polity of the Episcopal Church, the selection of a rector is the fruit of a lengthy process, in which the parish evaluates its identity and mission, forms a search committee of vestry members and other parishioners and chooses a candidate who must then be approved by the diocesan bishop before she or he can officially be called as rector. In most cases, the candidate is from outside the parish or even the diocese.  The position is basically that of a senior pastor.

Fr. Denaro’s case is different in that he was already serving the congregation, which gave parishioners the opportunity to know him and continuously benefit from his ministry. It seemed clear to the diocesan bishop, the Right Rev. Lawrence Provenzano, and to the St. Ann's Vestry “that our Priest-in-Charge had achieved a comfortable presence and productive ministry with us, obviating the need for further searching,” reports the newsletter. Bishop Provenzano gave his recommendation. After consulting with several parishioners, the Vestry decided at its June 11 meeting to call Fr. Denaro.

Fr. Denaro was vacationing and not reachable by press deadline for this story. However, parish leaders conveyed his permission to reproduce his remarks from The Good News.

Within the Episcopal Church, a distinction exists between the roles of priest-in-charge and a rector, explains Fr. Denaro. “You may think of my shift from Priest-in-Charge to Rector as a move from temporary to permanent employee…The position of Rector comes with tenure. The term that perhaps best describes my new status is settled pastor. As I see it, this change reflects our shared confidence that the parish has achieved a hopeful stability after a long period of instability and uncertainty. It is thanks in large part to the unflagging leadership of an enduring core of stalwart members over many years that this is possible,” he writes.

Fr. Denaro states his commitment to St. Ann becoming a welcoming spiritual home and expanding the parish’s outreach.

“I am more ready than ever to address with you our dual concerns for the health of the congregation and the preservation of the parish buildings. Our building needs loom large and they won’t diminish, but will only continue to expand. We must persist in identifying creative ways to maintain these treasured edifices because of their historic significance and mostly because they are a tremendous resource for mission. At the same time, we have to keep up our efforts to grow. There are increasingly more of us around, and it has been a blessing to welcome new folks who are seeking a church home and find it among us.” He adds, “Our community extends well beyond our official membership. We must rededicate ourselves to inviting a broad cross-section of people to invest in our future by engaging them in exciting cultural and outreach programming.”

Fr. Denaro takes the helm of a parish whose origins date back to 1847. The church at the corner of Clinton and Montague streets, now known as St. Ann & the Holy Trinity, is a National Historic Landmark. Designed by noted 19th century architect, Minard LaFever, the sanctuary named Holy Trinity Church was built somewhere between 1844-47, and was officially opened on April 25, 1847. The Diocese of Long Island closed Holy Trinity in 1957 amid major parish upheaval. Then, in 1969, neighboring St. Ann’s Church—the oldest Episcopal congregation in Brooklyn—sold its Livingston street property to the Packer Collegiate Institute and moved into the Holy Trinity Church building, taking on the new name of St. Ann & the Holy Trinity. The parish’s history webpage states that, “the name indicates not the merger of two parishes, but instead the continuing life of a body of faithful Episcopalians who have worshiped in Brooklyn for more than 230 years.”

Fr. Denaro will be formally invested as rector during an Evensong on Saturday, October 5 at 4 p.m. Bishop Provenzano will preside at this liturgy.