Faith In Brooklyn for Sept. 30

September 30, 2014 By Francesca Norsen Tate, Religion Editor Brooklyn Daily Eagle
The Rev. Tom Lenhart. Photo courtesy of Plymouth Church
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Plymouth Church Announces New Interim Senior Minister

Rev. Tom Lenhart Brings Background in Law and Clinical Pastoral Work

Plymouth Church, which has enjoyed a strong pastoral-lay partnership for many years, continues to grow as a new interim senior minister is announced. The Rev. Tom Lenhart succeeds the Rev. Alvin Bunis as interim senior minister. Rev. Bunis has been called as the settled senior minister at a church in Florida. [See accompanying story, below.]

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Plymouth Church announced the appointment of Pastor Rev. Tom Lenhart as interim senior minister, beginning on Nov. 10. He brings all of the qualities that the Plymouth congregation sought and hoped for in this interim time, church officials said.  

“Among Tom’s gifts to Plymouth are relevant experience, maturity, thoughtfulness, good preaching skills and great people skills,” according to the church announcement.

He will serve with the Rev. Dr. Jane Huber, who came on board at Plymouth earlier this year as interim assistant minister.

Rev. Lenhart holds degrees from Columbia University and Columbia Law School, where twice he was named a Harlan Fiske Stone Scholar. He clerked for two United States district judges in New York City. He specialized in in litigation for corporations, nonprofits, universities, international organizations and individuals.

The son of a United Church of Christ minister, Rev. Lenhart was very active at his local UCC church — Westmoreland Congregational in Bethesda, Md. — for more than 25 years. He led his church through the 15-month process of becoming “Open and Affirming.” Like Rev. Bunis, who entered ordained ministry after another career, Rev. Lenhart discerned a calling after 30 years in legal practice and entered Harvard Divinity School, graduating with a master in divinity degree in 2005. During his time at Harvard, he completed a course in clinical pastoral education.

Before and after his graduation, Rev. Lenhart was a student minister and then a ministerial member of the staff at North-Prospect UCC in Cambridge, Mass. Since 2004, he has been the president of the board and a liturgist for the “Outdoor Church,” an ecumenical church to the homeless in Cambridge. Rev. Lenhart was the 13th senior minister at First Congregational Church in Chappaqua, N.Y., where he served from 2006 to 2013.  

Rev. Lenhart’s wife Lynn has been a Christian educator for 18 years and served until June 2013 as the director of Christian formation at the First Church Congregational in Fairfield, Conn. They have three adult children.

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Plymouth Church Bids Godspeed to Rev. Al Bunis, Who Has New Ministry in Miami, Fla.

The Plymouth Church family bid the Rev. Alvin Bunis a poignant Godspeed during September as he prepares for a new ministry in Florida. Rev. Bunis, who has served this landmark congregation for several years in lay and then ordained ministry, may be leaving Brooklyn, but Plymouth stays with him.

This is because he carries the love of the Brooklyn congregation and because the Miami-area church that has called him as its new settled senior minister is also named Plymouth!

Rev. Bunis and his wife Lynn are starting a new chapter of their life and ministry at Plymouth Congregational Church in Coconut Grove, starting in November. He told the Brooklyn Eagle last week that he leaves the Heights with much gratitude.

Unlike many interim ministers who are brought in to help a congregation discern its mission as a new senior pastor is sought, Al Bunis was already very familiar with Plymouth’s character and dynamic. He and his wife started attending in the late 1990s and became members in 1998. Bunis, who holds a degree in economics from Harvard and a successful career in banking and finance, discerned a call to the ordained ministry and earned his master of divinity degree from the New York Theological Seminary. Following his ordination on June 12, 2011, he served Plymouth Church for three years prior to becoming interim senior minister upon the retirement of the Rev. David C. Fisher last year.

Rev. Bunis credits Plymouth Church with an “exponential growth” of his faith. His understanding of how the Plymouth family works “enabled me to hit the ground running quickly as assistant minister under David (Fisher). He just was so gracious with me and gave me so many opportunities to do so many different things. He shared so generously with his knowledge.”

Rev. Bunis points out, “All ministry, you could argue, is interim ministry. Building up a strong church isn’t dependent alone on the current pastor, but on the entire faith community. No matter how long your pastor is there, if you’re building up, truly building up, and building a strong church that’s really engaged in the world and doing important things, you want it to do well after you leave.”

When Rev. Fisher retired last year, Rev. Bunis stepped forward as interim senior minister.

“It’s a conventional wisdom that the pastor who serves as an interim minister steps back from being considered for the permanent, called pastor position, and is ineligible. In our view, that’s the best practice,” he said.

Therefore, he explained, it was understood that he would be looking for another job. He completed the terms of his one-year contract.

“This is another example of Plymouth’s generosity and support,” he said. “The congregation is happy for me and for Lynn and our family. Parting is not easy. This is a dream for a long time to do what I’m about to do. Sad as I am to leave this church family, we’re excited about what we’re about to embark on.”

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Several Blessing of Animals Rites Around Brownstone Brooklyn Will Celebrate Beloved Pets

Our pets give us joy, relaxation and well-being.

Each year, the Carroll Gardens community joins together for an ecumenical celebration of St. Francis of Assisi’s love for all of God’s creations, especially animals. The priests and parishes of Sacred Hearts-St. Stephen Roman Catholic Church and St. Paul’s Episcopal Church participate in a joint blessing of animals, held on the feast day (or the weekend closest to it) of this 12th-Century Italian saint, Oct. 4. This and other, similar rites around Brooklyn provide opportunities for the pets, who give us so much love and companionship, to receive a blessing.

This year’s joint celebration takes place on Sunday, Oct. 5, at 4 p.m., in front of Sacred Heart-St. Stephen’s Church on Summit Street, between Hicks and Henry streets. Furry, feathered and scaled friends — and sometimes the more exotic species — are welcome. Those pets who are no longer living will also be remembered; their families may bring photos or mementos.

Other Brooklyn churches are also hosting Pet Blessings. St. Charles Borromeo parish holds a blessing rite in front of the church on Sidney Place on Saturday, Oct. 4 at 10 a.m.  The clergy of Grace Church-Brooklyn Heights (Episcopal, 254 Hicks St.) will bless animals for parishioners and neighbors of the larger community during its 5 p.m. Eucharist on Sunday, Oct. 5. The Church of St. Ann & the Holy Trinity will combine its pet blessing liturgy with a dog and cat adoption outreach. The parish’s fourth annual pet blessing ceremony, also open to the wider community, will be offered on Sunday Oct. 5, at 1:30 p.m. This Blessing of the Animals takes place in the North Garden on Clinton Street at the corner of Montague Street. The rain location is inside the church. Animals of every kind (including stuffed!) and their owners are encouraged to attend. Prayers of remembrance for beloved deceased pets also will be offered at the brief outdoor ceremony. St. John’s Episcopal Church (St. John’s Place in Park Slope) will hold its Blessing of the Animals at 4 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 4, prior to its regular vigil Eucharist at 5 p.m. The blessing rite will take place in the church garden, weather permitting.

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Congregation Mount Sinai’s Film Series Chronicles Jewish Life and History

Included Is Acclaimed Film ‘Arranged,’ Set in Brooklyn

Jewish lives and history in film is the theme of an afternoon film festival at Congregation Mount Sinai, held on the third Wednesday of each month, over the coming program year.

“American Jerusalem: Jews and the Making of San Francisco” will be shown on Oct. 15.  Subsequent upcoming films include “Fill the Void” (Nov. 19), about a young Hasidic woman being pressured into an arranged marriage to an older widower; and the widely-acclaimed “Arranged,” on Dec. 17. “Arranged” unfolds the poignant story of two new teachers, one an Orthodox Jew and one a Muslim, who defy expectations of friction and find that they have a shared expectation of arranged marriage in contemporary Brooklyn.

The Jan. 21 film will be “Expulsion and Memory,” which traces the modern descendants of Spanish Jews who, in 1492, had to flee, convert, and/or practice Judaism in secret. “Old Jews Telling Jokes” will be shown on Feb. 18. “Forever Activists,” stories from the veterans of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade who fought against Franco and the Spanish Fascists in 1936, will be shown on March 18. “The David Susskind Show: How to be a Jewish Son,” with Mel Brooks, George Segal, David Steinberg and others, is the April 15 feature — perhaps a reward to the viewer for filing one’s taxes in time. The concluding film, on May 20, will be “Making Trouble: Three Generations of Funny Jewish Women: Molly Picon, Fanny Brice, Sophie Tucker, Joan Rivers, Gilda Radner and Wendy Wasserstein.”

Each film begins at 3:30 p.m. at Congregation Mount Sinai, 250 Cadman Plaza West, in Brooklyn Heights/Downtown Brooklyn.

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St. Ann’s Newest Visual Arts Exhibit Portrays a Genesis of Land and Sea

St. Ann & the Holy Trinity Church presents “In the Beginning,” an installation of ink wash paintings by New York City artist Athena LaTocha, on exhibit through Oct. 24. This show is the third in an ongoing series of visual art programs that are part of The Forum @ St. Ann’s, which seeks to engage the community in conversation about the arts, ideas and civic life.

LaTocha chose “In the Beginning” as the exhibition’s title, based on the forms and gestures in the paintings that evoke both the land and sea. The tension of natural forces and elemental energy is emphasized in the stark, expressionistic strokes across white surfaces.

LaTocha is partly influenced by memories of Alaska, her birthplace, to which she continually returns to explore the environment. She retains a desire for “looking at tidal forces of nature and human interaction with the earth,” often rejecting traditional painting and drawing tools and using “unorthodox tools, such as cracked rocks, concrete bricks and reclaimed automobile tire shreds, which I pick up off the sides of highways.”

LaTocha explains that this process provides a vehicle for her to approach the image fresh, or in a way that demands alternative perspectives to understanding image construction.

The paintings will hang from the balconies of St. Ann’s, encircling the sanctuary and immersing viewers in the energy and movement of her images. The loose, fluid abstract forms are in conversation with the church’s landmark stained glass windows, which serve as a backdrop to the installation.

All works will be on view at St. Ann & the Holy Trinity, Tuesday through Thursday, noon to 3 p.m.; Sundays, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.; and by appointment by contacting the parish office at (718) 875-6960, or [email protected]. St. Ann & the Holy Trinity Church is at Montague and Clinton streets in Brooklyn Heights.





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