Milestones In Faith for week of May 17
St. Francis Xavier Church, Park Slope
Founded in 1886-the Statue of Liberty was dedicated in New York Harbor—St. Francis Xavier Church offered its first Mass in September of that year, in the parlor of a brownstone on the corner of Carroll Street and Sixth Avenue in Park Slope. The house at 243 Sixth Avenue, now houses the Sisters of St. Joseph, who serve the parish and its school.
The congregation very quickly outgrew its first church building, erected in December, 1886, and nicknamed “The Tin Church.” The parish family moved to the new building on President St. acclaimed for its design. Architect Thomas Houghton constructed the church of granite, trimmed with Indiana limestone. Bishop Loughlin, then bishop of Brooklyn, dedicated the new church building on May 15, 1904.
Saint Francis Xavier Church marked its 125th anniversary with events during the 2011-2012 season. The saint for which the church is named is honored on Dec. 3.
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Lafayette Ave. Presbyterian Church, founded on May 16, 1857
The Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church in Fort Greene section of Brooklyn was founded in 1857, some 41 years before Brooklyn—one of the largest U.S. cities—became a borough of New York City.
Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church became known almost immediately as “temple of abolition.” The early leadership and congregation, although mostly white, sided decisively with those working for racial progress. Meeting space was provided for outspoken abolitionists, such as Frederick Douglass, Sojourner Truth and Harriet Tubman. Escaped slaves were given shelter in the tunnels deep below the building. Today, the church’s multi-racial and multi-cultural heritage continues. The Lily Endowment named Lafayette Avenue s as one of the 300 Outstanding Protestant churches in the United States.
The church’s interior is notable for its mahogany paneling and 13 stained-glass windows designed by Louis Comfort Tiffany. In the 1970s, the church commissioned Hank Prussing, a young artist from the Pratt Institute, to paint a giant mural around the upper balcony, reflecting the diversity of the community and the church.
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St. Philip’s Episcopal Church-MacDonough St., Bedford-Stuyvesant
St. Philip’s Episcopal Church was founded in 1899, with its first worship service taking place on May 14 of that year, held in a vacant store at 1887 Pacific Avenue in Brooklyn’s Weeksville neighborhood. Soon after, a church site at 1610 Dean Street was acquired.
St. Philip’s started out as a mission chapel, which quickly grew in membership to 500 people, serving members with roots in Virginia, North Carolina and the Caribbean. The congregations established programs and ministries that appealed to the neighborhood.
By the time that St. Philip’s attained parish status in 1926, the first charter for a Black chapter of the Brotherhood of St. Andrew had been issued to the church some 23 years before. The first Black company of the United Boys Brigade, a forerunner of the Boy Scouts, was chartered in 1907. And one of the earliest Boy Scout charters given to any organization was granted to St. Philip’s in 1921. In 1944, St. Philip’s moved to its present building, a neo-Gothic edifice accommodating 900 people. Interestingly, that building, on MacDonough Street, was designed in the same year that St. Philip’s was founded: 1899. Architect Arni Delhi had designed the building for another congregation: Good Shepherd Episcopal Church, 45 years before it became home to the St. Philip’s congregation.
St. Philip’s Church continues to serve the black and Caribbean communities, and provide leadership in the religious, social, cultural and economic life of Bedford-Stuyvesant and Stuyvesant Heights. The church is in the Stuyvesant Heights Historical District, which the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission designated in 1971.
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