Brooklyn Boro

Faith In Brooklyn for Dec. 17

December 17, 2014 By Francesca Norsen Tate, Religion Editor Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Metropolitan JOSEPH gives his first address as the archbishop of New York’s Antiochian Orthodox community. Eagle photo by Francesca Norsen Tate
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A New Archbishop Begins Ministry, Serving Orthodox Christians and Calling for Unity

Metropolitan JOSEPH pledges to ‘quell the schisms’

St. Nicholas Antiochian Orthodox Cathedral in Boerum Hill was packed to standing-room capacity last weekend as the community celebrated the enthronement of a new archbishop. His Eminence Metropolitan JOSEPH was enthroned as the Antiochian Orthodox archbishop of New York and metropolitan of all North America. The enthronement took place on the feast of St. Nicholas of Myra, a fourth-century saint from the region of Turkey.

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The entire 90-minute liturgy was streamed live, with the cathedral staff providing room in the downstairs community hall for the overflow crowd. Bishops, presbyters (priests), deacons and other dignitaries, representing Orthodox, Maronite (Eastern-Rite Catholic) and other Christian backgrounds, were also present.

The liturgy included prayers of thanksgiving and remarks by both Patriarch JOHN X and his Eminence Metropolitan JOSEPH. The love that this community holds for its leaders was evident.

Having just received the pastoral staff from Patriarch JOHN X moments before, Metropolitan JOSEPH said, “On this day, we see the bestowal of this pastoral staff. Every hierarch receives the one staff of Christ, not many staffs.”

Citing the example of St. Nicholas, “who led the people God entrusted to him forward to places they have never been,” Metropolitan JOSEPH emphasized the connection he shares with his brethren clergy. He pledged to use the staff (and the leadership this symbol represents) to lead the clergy and laity into education, compassion and works of unity.

“We, here in North America, enjoy so many material blessings, but are we truly free? Are we truly at peace with our neighbor? Do we respect the dignity and sacred personhood of every human being — or, even of ourselves?” he asked the congregation. Metropolitan JOSEPH emphasized the need for all to take responsibility for relieving the suffering of those abroad, particularly in Syria, which has endured war, violence and bloodshed for a long time.

“I shall use this staff to quell the schisms which afflict the church and to rid the church of any factionalism,” he pledged.

Metropolitan JOSEPH also pledged “to restore American society and culture as a whole,” pointing out that North America and the ancient city of Antioch hold much in common, culturally.

“We, of the Holy Church of Antioch, hold a special understanding of the diversity of North America. Antioch’s diversity is even more diverse than America’s,” he said. “In our ancient, great city, we lived for centuries with a great multicultural life. Roman, Greek, Arab, Aramaic/Syriac and Islamic cultures lived side by side, informing and supporting each other. From the beginning, our church has consisted of people from diverse cultures. Over the centuries, we have lived together in relative harmony, with a few noteworthy exceptions. Antiochian Orthodox have held a Christian conscience, embracing those who are different from us.”

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Prolific Author Bruce Feiler Hosts New ‘Sacred Journeys’ PBS Series

Throughout the history of humanity, people have traveled the world in search of spiritual understanding and closeness with the entity they refer to as “God.”

Even in a world in which religious expression is more threatened than ever, sacred journeys have grown in popularity, with 200 million people going on a pilgrimage each year. They set out from the ordinary and seek the extraordinary.

Prolific author and journalist Bruce Feiler has accompanied pilgrimages throughout the world and now leads viewers on such journeys, through a new PBS series premiering this week.

Feiler, a Brooklyn Heights resident, is the author of several books on faith and Biblical history, including Walking the Bible, Where God Was Born and America’s Prophet: Moses and the American Story. He has also written books on different subjects, from coverage of the Arab Spring revolt to his own recent battle with cancer (The Council of Dads) and 2013’s highly acclaimed The Secrets of Happy Families.

“Sacred Journeys with Bruce Feiler” takes viewers on some of the most celebrated, challenging and spectacular religious pilgrimages on earth. In this six-part series, set to launch on Tuesday, Dec. 16, locally on Channel 13, the viewer will travel with American pilgrims looking to transform their lives as they visit places deeply meaningful to their faith. And the program’s cameras gain privileged access to places rarely seen by viewers before.

The series opens with a pilgrimage to Lourdes, as part of the International Military Pilgrimage. Each of the three Tuesday nights of the series (Dec. 16, 23 and 30) feature back-to-back, hour-long segments, starting at 8 and 9 p.m., respectively.

“Host Bruce Feiler embeds with a group of active duty and retired U.S. military, wounded in Afghanistan, Iraq and other American wars, as they travel to the Catholic shrine of Lourdes in Southwest France in search of healing,” according to a program description on the “Sacred Journeys” website. “While only half the American soldiers are Catholic, all hope that Lourdes can provide spiritual and emotional healing beyond the treatment they’ve already received for their physical wounds and disabilities — especially for invisible wounds of war like PTSD.”

Immediately following the Lourdes segment, starting at 9 p.m., is Shikoku, about the island in Japan that is the birthplace of the most revered figure in Japanese Buddhism, the monk and teacher Kobo Daishi, who brought a populist form of Buddhism to Japan from China in the Ninth Century. For hundreds of years, a 750-mile pilgrimage route has circled this mountainous island, connecting 88 separate temples and shrines that claim connection to the Great Master Kobo Daishi. Feiler circles the island, following a pilgrim trail that’s taken by hundreds of thousands of Japanese and international pilgrims every year — a Buddhist pilgrimage that welcomes pilgrims of all faiths.

Subsequent programs are: Jerusalem (Dec. 23 at 8 p.m.) and the Hajj (9 p.m.); the Kumbh Mela festival in India (Dec. 30 at 8 p.m.) and the Nigerian Osun Osogbo (9 p.m.).

Many of these programs repeat over the weekends, on sister PBS station WLIW-World. Visit the series website at for further information and local TV listings.

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Christmas services and concerts

First Unitarian Church’s Candlelight Service Features New Musical Arrangements. 4 p.m. Family Service Also Launched

The Candlelight Christmas Eve program at First Unitarian Church, a beloved tradition in Brooklyn, features a different genre, or theme, expressed in music.

This year’s candlelight service, taking place at 5 p.m., will feature several new arrangements of traditional spirituals and carols by the landmark church’s new music director, Adam Podd, as well as other contemporary choral arrangers.

These reimagined Christmas tunes will draw from various styles, including gospel, jazz, contemporary and classical. There will also be two major choral works on the program — Hoggard’s setting of “Personent Hodie” and selections from Daniel Rogers Pinkham’s “Christmas Cantata.” Pinkham was an American composer and organist who studied composition with Samuel Barber, and held the position of principal organist for 42 years at King’s Chapel, a Unitarian Universalist church in Boston.

Featured performers include Marielle Murphy (soprano), Melissa Paul-Perez (alto), Dominick Corbacio (tenor), and Jon Dendy (baritone), as well as a brass quartet.

Rev. Ana Levy-Lyons, First Unitarian’s senior minister, says, “The Christmas Eve Candlelight Service has been a tradition in Brooklyn Heights for many decades and we are always so proud to open our beautiful gothic revival sanctuary to the wider community.”

Music Director Podd adds, “I am thrilled to continue the tradition and excited to be adding some new elements. It is a pleasure to lead the First Unitarian choir and soloists, who work very hard to present beautiful and meaningful music for the holiday season.”  

This year, First Unitarian will add a 4 p.m. family service, featuring familiar carols and stories of the season. The service will be held in the chapel, which will be decorated with holiday greens.

Meagan Henry, the director of education ministries, says, “It has been several years since we’ve offered a more casual service, especially for families with children. We are planning a worship that will celebrate the Christmas season in a way that is approachable to children of all ages.”  

Rev. Levy-Lyons adds, “Of course, some people may choose to go to both services and that would be great.”

Childcare will be available for small children at the 5 p.m. service.

The First Unitarian Congregational Society in Brooklyn has been worshipping in Brooklyn Heights since 1833 and in its historic Gothic Revival Sanctuary for 170 years, since 1844.  

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Join Messiah Sing-in at St. Paul’s Church

Carroll Gardens parish hosts time-honored tradition

St. Paul’s Church-Carroll Gardens hosts its annual Messiah Sing-In at 4 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 21. This lively performance of Handel’s masterpiece is interactive, as audience members are encouraged to sing. Conducting the work is Music Director Vince Peterson.

Of course, top-notch soloists will be on hand to sing the recitatives and arias, from Parts I and II of Handel’s unparalleled masterwork, but audience members are invited to sing the choruses with other sopranos, altos, tenors and bass singers in their section.

Participants can bring their own score, or borrow one that evening. Audience members can also bid on a chance to take the podium and conduct the Hallelujah Chorus. Afterwards, light refreshments will be served in the Parish Hall.

Tickets are $15 online and $20 at the door. For advance tickets, visit  

St. Paul’s Church is at 199 Carroll St. (corner of Carroll and Clinton streets).

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Brooklyn Borough Hall Hosts Historic Exhibit of Manuscripts From St. Francis of Assisi

Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams last week announced a historic exhibition at Brooklyn Borough Hall of numerous 12th- and 13th-Century manuscripts from St. Francis of Assisi, one of the most significant figures in the history of organized religion. Pope Francis, who is scheduled to visit New York City next year, took his papal name in honor of his commitment to the poor.

This is the first time these artifacts have left Italy in 700 years and it is currently the only scheduled opportunity for the public to view these documents in the United States; they have been on private display at the United Nations since mid-November. Interest in viewing the exhibition has come from across the country as well as abroad, with many planning special visits to Brooklyn to take advantage of this unique cultural opportunity.

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Ring in 2015 Musically at Emmanuel’s Jazz Vespers

Annual Holiday Vespers Blends Worship and Popular Jazz Greats

Emmanuel Baptist Church invites all to bring 2015 in on a high note with Antonio Hart at its Jazz Vespers.

This New Year’s Eve, Emmanuel Baptist Church presents its Third Annual Holiday Jazz Vespers, featuring the profound Antonio Hart and the Queens College Jazz Ensemble. Hart is recognized as one of the most talented instrumentalists of his generation and has played with some of the greats, such as Dizzy Gillespie, Roy Hargrove and Nancy Wilson.

The Queens College Jazz Ensemble is composed of current Jazz Masters candidates from the Aaron Copland School of Music. The Jazz program at Queens College was established in the early 1980s by NEA Jazz Master Professor Jimmy Heath. At present, its program has students enrolled from countries all over the world, including the USA, China, Japan, Korea, Israel, Venezuela and Russia.

The Jazz Vespers series gives attendees the opportunity to “experience the presence of God through the sounds of jazz.” The series was founded to give jazz lovers in Brooklyn and throughout New York City the opportunity to praise God and enjoy a variety of jazz selections from top-tier musicians.

“Simply put, jazz is the musical incense that collects and carries the prayers of a people,” stated Rev. Anthony L. Trufant, senior pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church.

Emmanuel Baptist Church is at 279 Lafayette Ave. in Clinton Hill. Visit, or call 718-622-1107 for more information.

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Mexican Catholics Celebrate Heritage Through Our Lady of Guadalupe Feast

Brooklyn’s Mexican community celebrated the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe on her patronal feast day, with mass and a colorful procession around the borough.

The Most Rev. Nicholas DiMarzio, bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn, celebrated mass on this day, which honors the Virgin Mary’s love for and protection of the Mexican people. Concelebrating was Auxiliary Bishop Octavio Cisneros.

More than 1,000 Catholics gathered at the Co-Cathedral of Saint Joseph in Prospect Heights. Themed, “The Light of Christ,” this celebration was organized by the Mexican Apostolate of the Diocese of Brooklyn, with 31 participating parishes of Brooklyn and Queens.

The mass was celebrated in Spanish, with dozens of Marian Images of Our Lady of Guadalupe decorating the co-cathedral and a traditional Mexican musical band performing the liturgical songs. Afterwards, the worshipers formed a torch pilgrimage as part of a tradition from Mexico. They carried blessed torches throughout the streets of Brooklyn and Queens, before bringing these back to their respective parishes.


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