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Heights Church, undergoing renovation, wins Landmarks Conservancy Grant

The chancel pews and altar are boarded up in this August 1, 2013 photo of Grace Church’s sanctuary. Outdoor scaffolding and bridge were erected during the last week of July. Work is expected to take about 14 months. Photo by Francesca Norsen Tate

Brooklyn Daily Eagle

Grace Church in Brooklyn Heights was among three historic religious properties receiving Robert W. Wilson Sacred Sites Challenge Grants.

The church, on Hicks St. and Grace Court, is undergoing a multi-million dollar capital renovation and repair project, including roof replacement, rewiring and new lighting. Grace Church received a $30,000 grant.

Robert W. Wilson Grants were also awarded to Co-Cathedral of St. Joseph in Prospect Heights, which was named as cathedral-status earlier this year, and the Union Baptist Church in Bedford-Stuyvesant. They were among 23 Sacred Sites Grants totaling $275,000.

“It’s vital to renew and repair religious buildings,” said Peg Breen, President of the New York Landmarks Conservancy. “Not only do these sites convey their communities’ history, they serve their neighborhoods today with food pantries, nursery schools, concerts and a variety of worthy programs.”

The brownstone Grace Church was designed by renowned Gothic Revival architect Richard Upjohn and constructed in 1849. The church interior is highly intact, featuring an openwork wooden ceiling, with remnants of its early, circa 1867 decorative stenciled finishes, and exposed timber trusses with handsome Gothic tracery decoration. The sanctuary contains figural stained glass memorial windows by many prominent studios, most installed in the 1880s-1890s, including three windows by the Tiffany studios and two by J & R Lamb, a window by Scotland and New York based Aesthetic movement studio Cottier & Co. and several windows by the distinguished London firm Clayton & Bell.

An Episcopal parish, Grace Church hosts weekly meetings by seven community organizations, ranging from recovery programs to neighborhood choral societies. In November, the Parish House gymnasium is transformed nightly into a shelter for 10 to 12 homeless men, providing lodging, shower facilities and hot dinners. The local community boards and other Brooklyn Heights non-profits hold meetings and fundraising events at the church. The church hosts annual Thanksgiving dinners. The parish hall is leased to Grace Church preschool, established in 1928 and serving 160 children.

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The Co-Cathedral of St. Joseph in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn, received a Sacred Sites  Challenge Grant of $35,000. The parish of St. Joseph was established in 1850 to serve Irish immigrants in what would later become the Diocese of Brooklyn. The church was designed by local German-American architect Francis J. Berlenbach, Jr. and constructed in 1914. The cream-colored neo-Renaissance brick and terra cotta church is composed of a two-story central bay, with an arcaded entrance portico containing granite columns and a Guastavino-tile ceiling.  There are two monumental bell towers, with lower facades of textured brickwork and arched, open belfries. The church features windows designed by Locke Decorating Co., a Brooklyn firm active between 1890 and 1920. The interior of the church, one of the largest in the Diocese with a seating capacity of 1,500, retains many of its original features.

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn determined that the development of the adjacent Barclays Center, with its associated large parking lot, as well as the development of new high-rise housing adjacent to the stadium, would make the site ideal as a new co-cathedral. The church exterior was cleaned and restored, with a new slate roof, in 2012 and St. Joseph’s was elevated to co-cathedral status this past March.

The parish of St. Joseph has a weekly Spanish Mass and cultural programming for the Mexican community. The feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe this past December was celebrated with a Bishop from Mexico and 860 faithful in attendance. Community activities hosted by the co-cathedral include Zumba classes, yoga in the church garden, ESL instruction, musical performances, jazz classes and AA meetings.

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Union Baptist Church in Bedford-Stuyvesant received a Sacred Sites Grant of $10,000.  This sacred space is an outstanding example of late 19th-century Renaissance Revival ecclesiastical architecture. The yellow brick church with limestone and terra cotta trim was constructed in 1898 to the designs of Axel S. Hedman, a Brooklyn-based, Swedish-born architect.  The stained glass windows are simple in design but their rhythm, opalescent glass and positioning create a handsome sanctuary space.

The church is open daily, running both a soup kitchen and food pantry. The congregation’s ministries include a thriving choir, music and drama program with several performances throughout the year both by the church groups and other organizations who use the church as a performance space. Over the past few years, the church has hosted the police academy exams, Department of Social Services counseling and job training programs, Department of Housing Preservation and Development seminars and Medicaid counseling meetings.

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Popular Grace Church Hymn Sings Return, Local Poet Shares Stories on Her Newest Works

Grace Church continues its tradition of August Hymn Sings next Tuesday, Aug. 13.

The popular series runs for three weeks this year, through Aug. 27. Grace Church’s organist and choirmaster Paul Richard Olson lead an exploration of popular, new and even comical texts to the music sung in churches over centuries.

The Hymn Sings have quickly become a neighborhood event, with members of Plymouth and First Unitarian Churches joining in. Plymouth member and hymn-text writer Jacque Jones will make a special presentation on Aug. 20 on some of her newest texts (poetry), along with the stories of how they were inspired.

The Hymn Sings run from 7 to 8:30 p.m. on Aug. 13, 20 and 27 in Grace Church’s McKittrick Choir Room, which was named for a longtime 20th century organist and choirmaster, Anne Versteeg McKittrick.

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Outreach Program Helps Equip Homeless Kids for New School Year

The Outreach Committee of St. Ann & the Holy Trinity Church embarks on some new monthly outreach programs, the first of which begins this month. These monthly programs will provide opportunities for service in a variety of forms addressing local, national and international need.

The first project, Operation Backpack, has the mission of buying school supplies for homeless children. One of the most devastating consequences of homelessness is the impact it has on a child’s education. These children need school supplies for the upcoming school year. The parish Outreach Committee, led by the Limoncelli-Bickerton family, is collaborating with Volunteers of America in its Operation Backpack program.

The parish will collect donations of new backpacks, supplies, or backpacks filled with supplies. Lists of suitable supplies are available in the church narthex. Donors will select an item or two to bring (an empty backpack, a three-ring binder, a spiral notebook). A group of volunteers will then fill the backpacks so they’re ready to use. At the end of the drive, Volunteers of America sort the backpacks and distribute them to thousands of homeless children in time for the new school year.

Backpacks and/or school supplies can be dropped off at St. Ann & the Holy Trinity through this Sunday, Aug. 11.
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August 7, 2013 - 3:30pm


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