Faith In Brooklyn for May 12

May 12, 2014 By Francesca Norsen-Tate, Religion Editor Brooklyn Daily Eagle
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Grace Church’s Newly Restored Sanctuary Featured in Sacred Sites Open House

Grace Church Brooklyn Heights, which just reopened its landmark sanctuary after a year of restorations, will participate in this year’s Sacred Sites Open House Weekend, taking place on May 17-18.

The New York Landmarks Conservancy’s popular Sacred Sites Open House Weekend, now in its fourth year, gives the public a chance to explore the art, architecture and history of houses of worship around the city. Several congregations around Brooklyn, from Williamsburg to Prospect Park South, are among the houses of worship being featured. One of these is St. Joseph’s Co-Cathedral, which was officially dedicated as such on Tuesday, May 13.

Grace Church Brooklyn Heights was built in 1847 to serve the rapidly-increasing Episcopal congregation in Brooklyn Heights that had outgrown the smaller Emmanuel Church on Sidney Place. Architect Richard Upjohn, an immigrant from England, was an influential proponent of the Gothic Revival in church design and worship.

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As immigration increased, parishioners created numerous ministries to serve the wider community, including a job-training program for women after the Civil War; a free kindergarten in the 1890s; and a preschool with families from Syria, Norway and Sweden in the early 1900s that continues as a neighborhood institution in the 21st century. Today, Grace Church has a lively and diverse congregation, the members of which are from many neighborhoods of Brooklyn and Manhattan. The church also offers a wide array of education and outreach ministries.

The 2014 Open House will also provide another opportunity to welcome visitors to the newly renovated sanctuary that reopened on Easter Sunday after 13 months of construction. Grace Church participates in the Saturday, May 17 portion of Open House Weekend with ongoing tours from 12-5 p.m. Visitors will learn the stories behind the original Gothic ornament from the 1860s revealed on the lofty ceiling and walls, as well as the new copper roof, new lighting design and electrical systems, stained glass, structural repairs and refurbished Austin organ. Family activities such as “Make Your Own Stencils” and interactive architectural components will also be offered.

Parishioners Bob Whiteford, author of “Hidden Grace: A Study of the Signs, Symbols and History of Grace Church,” and Kim Lovejoy of EverGreene Architectural Arts will present a talk on “Symbolism in Gothic Ornament,” starting at 3 p.m.

As of press time on May 12, the Brooklyn congregations participating in this year’s Open House Weekend are: Grace Church, 254 Hicks St. in Brooklyn Heights, May 17, 12-5 p.m.; Brown Memorial Baptist Church, 484 Washington Ave. in Clinton Hill, May 17, 10 a.m.-2 p.m.; Church of St. Charles Borromeo, 19 Sidney Pl. in Brooklyn Heights, May 17, 9 a.m.-5 p.m., and Sunday, May 18, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. (Visitors are asked to respect the worship times of 9 and 10:30 a.m. on Sunday); the Co-Cathedral of St. Joseph, 856 Pacific St. in Prospect Heights, May 17, 10 a.m.-4 p.m., and May 18, 2-4 p.m.; First Unitarian Congregational Society in Brooklyn, 116 Pierrepont St. in Brooklyn Heights, May 17, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.; Plymouth Church, 57 Orange St. in Brooklyn Heights, May 17, 12-3 p.m.; St. Ann & the Holy Trinity Church, 157 Montague St. in Brooklyn Heights, May 17, 11 a.m.-2 p.m., and May 18, 1-4 p.m.; Sts. Constantine and Helen Greek Orthodox Cathedral, 64 Schermerhorn St., May 17,12-4 p.m., and Sunday, May 18, 9 a.m.-2 p.m.; Temple Beth Emeth v’Ohr Progressive Shaari Zedek, 83 Marlborough Rd. in Prospect Park South, May 17, 1-4 p.m.; and St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, 334 S. Fifth St. in Williamsburg, Saturday, May 17, 11 a.m.-5 p.m.

Many of these churches were featured in an earlier story about the Sacred Sites Open House Weekend.

The Conservancy’s Sacred Sites Program is the only statewide program in the country that provides financial and technical assistance for the restoration of culturally-significant religious properties. Since 1986, the program has disbursed grants of more than $8 million to more than 700 congregations, regardless of denominations.

Readers can learn more online at

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St. Joseph’s Church Is Officially Rededicated as Co-Cathedral

On Centennial of Original Dedication, St. Joseph Enjoying Renewed Growth

Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio is set to dedicate the church and altar of the Co-Cathedral of St. Joseph on Tuesday night, May 13, near the centennial of its original dedication in 1914.

Just days before he officially abdicated the Papacy last year, Pope Benedict XVI designated St. Joseph Church as a co-cathedral for the Diocese of Brooklyn on Feb. 14, 2013 after Bishop DiMarzio petitioned the Vatican.

The Co-Cathedral of St. Joseph sits at 856 Pacific St., between Vanderbilt and Underhill avenues, in Prospect Heights. Construction began in 1912 in the Spanish Colonial style. It is the third church on that site, which replaced the previous buildings that had been serving the large immigrant population that was moving into the City of Brooklyn. The new church building was dedicated on May 3, 1914.

The sanctuary comfortably seats 1,500 people and served a congregation that — at one time, according to parish records — swelled to 30,000 on any given Sunday.

Yet, just three years ago, average Mass attendance at St. Joseph’s had dropped to 80-90 people and the buildings were in a state of disrepair. Today, more than 700 people attend Sunday Mass and collections have increased from $300 per week to $4,500.

The Prospect Heights neighborhood has felt the impact of significant demographic change during recent times. Gentrification has changed the face of the neighborhood. Moreover, the Forest City Ratner’s redevelopment of the Atlantic Yards, which includes the Barclays Center, is bringing in an estimated 16,000 new residents.

“It would seem that a Catholic church ought to be part of this massive urban renewal project,” said Msgr. Kieran Harrington, pastor and rector of the co-cathedral. “The Church of St. Joseph is perfectly situated to meet that need.”

Six years ago, an extensive renovation of the exterior of the church began and the building underwent pointing. A new roof was installed and the windows, which are of museum quality, have been cleaned and restored. Shorter steeples were installed to replace those that had been removed in the 1970s because of structural damage. The bell was restored and hoisted into place in one of the steeples. The firm of Acheson and Doyle managed the renovation of the exterior and Botti Studios restored the windows.

Initially, a loan from the Diocese of Brooklyn, through its Office of Development, funded the project. A large foundation grant also helped. Moreover, each of the language apostolates are also raising $25,000 to fund the placement of the images of their national Madonnas.

The restoration’s total cost was $18.5 million. Leveraging of the real estate interests of the parish is what enabled this work to move forward. The diocese and the Compostella Fund loaned the parish the money and it is estimated that the entire sum will be paid back over 10 years.

One of the features of the new co-cathedral is the addition of modern artwork depicting contemporary saints as well as a series of murals that represents 22 Marian images donated by the ethnic apostolates of Brooklyn and Queens. It is also home to a recently restored grand Moller Organ of 36 ranks and more than 2,000 pipes.

“The faces of the people in the pews of St. Joseph’s reflect the diversity of the many cultures that call the Diocese of Brooklyn home,” Bishop DiMarzio said. “It is only fitting that this parish, among the largest in Brooklyn and Queens, becomes our co-cathedral.”

Tuesday’s dedication liturgy was being broadcast live on NET TV, the Diocese of Brooklyn’s 24-hour cable television channel.

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Milestone in Faith
Co-Cathedral of St. Joseph

May, 3 2014 marked the centennial of St. Joseph’s Church dedication and, 10 days hence, May 13, 2014 will be when the parish being rededicated as a co-cathedral.

The history of St. Joseph’s traces itself to 1851, predating the establishment of the Diocese of Brooklyn in 1853. St. Joseph’s was the eighth parish to be established on Long Island. Its first pastor was Father Patrick J. O’Neill, who served there until 1867.

Brooklyn architect F. J. Berlenbach designed the church, which was built with glazed brick and terracotta. The Alexander F. Locke Decorative Co., a Brooklyn firm, was responsible for the design and execution of the stained glass windows. The altar and baldachino (the canopy over the altar) were designed by Cav. Domenico Borgia, as were the pulpit and four side altars.
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Milestone in Faith

St. James Cathedral-Basilica

The month of May also marks another milestone for Brooklyn’s original Roman Catholic cathedral. St. James Church, founded in 1822, predated the establishment of the Diocese of Brooklyn at a time when our borough was still a separate city (before the 1898 Consolidation). After the diocese was established, St. James, which is on Jay Street, north of Tillary Street, in Downtown Brooklyn, was designated as the cathedral.

On the 160th anniversary of the cathedral’s founding, May 6, 1982, the Vatican issued an official decree designating St. James Cathedral as a basilica. St. James remains one of the diocese’s two cathedrals, along with the newly dedicated Co-Cathedral of St. Joseph.  Brooklyn joins several other dioceses around the U.S. to have two cathedrals.

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Plymouth Church Welcomes New Interim Assistant Minister

Bids Farewell to Seminary Intern Rachael Huntley As She Prepares for Ordination, New Position

Plymouth Church has appointed the Reverend Jane Huber as part-time interim assistant minister, effective May 27.

Rev. Al Bunis, interim senior minister, said in the announcement, which was made this week, “We are so pleased to have Jane joining our church. She brings a wealth of experience and knowledge, particularly working with youth and teaching. Her love of music is a wonderful bonus.”

An ordained minister in the United Church of Christ, Rev. Huber has served as minister to the East Barnard Church in Vermont (summers 2004-2010), and has developed educational programming and curriculum for children in pre-K through high school for churches in the New York area since 2006. She is currently a lecturer at Union Theological Seminary and an adjunct professor in Hofstra University’s Religion Department. Plymouth expands her already broad congregational network.

Rev. Huber notes, “I am very thankful for the invitation to join and serve Plymouth Church and look forward to meeting and working with the community.”

She earned her Ph.D. in Church History and Theology at Union Theological Seminary in 2013. She holds a Masters of Sacred Theology from Yale Divinity School, a certificate in Liturgical Studies from the Yale Institute of Sacred Music, and a Masters of Divinity from Union Theological Seminary.

Rev. Huber is married to Dr. Chandler Carter, professor of Music Theory and Composition at Hofstra. Their son, Owen Carter, will be a freshman at the Bronx High School of Science in the fall of 2014.

During this time of welcome, the Plymouth congregation also prepares to bid a deeply felt farewell to its seminary intern of the past two years, Rachael Huntley. She will be at Plymouth until mid-June, after her younger Youth Group members are confirmed on Sunday, June 8. Her official farewell is set for Sunday, June 15.

Huntley is preparing for ordination in the Presbyterian Church (PCUSA). Her next church home is Rye Presbyterian Church, where she will serve as director of Christian formation. She and her family — husband Chris, daughters Delilah and Noelle — will soon be relocating to Westchester County.

“Rachael has become such an important part of the fabric of Plymouth Church,” Al Bunis said. “Her warmth and love are so evident every Sunday. She will be greatly missed, but will remain a close friend of mine and the church.”

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Another Concert at St. Paul’s Music Is Flavor in This Program, Titled ‘Taste’

The Brooklyn Sounds Concert Series at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church presents “Taste.”

Savor the flavors as Choral Chameleon teams up with celebrity chef Lish Steiling for a multisensory experience that will sate the palate and nourish the soul. This concert meal, on Sunday, May 18, at 4 p.m., will pair exquisite works of choral music with a specially designed tasting menu that will catapult ears and tastebuds into musical euphoria! Moving from the warm and spicy tones of D flat major, to the sensual richness of C minor, to the bright and sweet tartness of A major, this experience will be a major musical revelation – no pun intended. Plan to make your reservations early!

There are a limited number of seats available per performance, so people are urged reserve early to ensure a seat at this table. Tickets must be ordered in advance and are available online at

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