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Faith In Brooklyn for Feb. 6

February 6, 2015 By Francesca Norsen Tate, Religion Editor Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Maggie Fales, in foreground, reads the text of Jacque Jones’ hymn, “Here Within This Congregation.” Photo by Francesca Norsen Tate
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Heights Poet Honored for Her New Hymnal: ‘Songs Unchanged, Yet Ever-Changing’

The ability to listen to a sermon or prayer and then transform it into hymn poetry is a gift. Plymouth Church celebrated this gift in its longtime member Jacque Jones last weekend for her recently published hymnal, titled “Songs Unchanged, Yet Ever-Changing.”

“Songs Unchanged” is an anthology of about 51 of Jones’ poems (for that is what hymn texts truly are), set to both traditional and newer hymn tunes. (Example: John Zundel’s “Beecher” tune, named for the founding minister of Plymouth, Henry Ward Beecher. Zundel himself was an organist and choir director at Plymouth during the 19th Century, serving there for 28 years.) “Songs Unchanged” also includes a brief description from Jones on the inspiration for that poem, Scripture sources and a list of themes, as well as additional indices and resources.

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“Songs Unchanged” also contains newer melodies, some in harmony and others in unison, by contemporary composers such as Randall Sensmeier, with whom she has done much collaborating.

“You are all part of this hymnal,” Jones said during remarks at the reception held in her honor. “Plymouth Church — and you all, individually — are very much a part of this publication. Plymouth is a great place to sing hymns; it’s a thrill to bring this hymnal back to the community where it really started.”

Jones quipped, “Periodically, the Holy Spirit reminds me that I’m deluding myself if I think I can write these hymns all by myself.”

The Rev. Tom Lenhart, interim senior minister, spoke of his time growing up in the church and being exposed to hymnody at an early age. His father was chairman of the committee that put together the hymnal that Plymouth used to use, the Pilgrim Hymnal.

“As a child, in my formative years, I remember my father standing by huge stacks of hymnals and sheets of music, as they tried to figure out what was going to go in the hymnal and what was not.”

Noting Jones’ preface to “Songs Unchanged, Yet Ever-Changing,” Lenhart said, “The hymnal has a central place in the worship of the church. The Psalmist invites us to sing unto the Lord a new song. We all know how amazingly important music is to the worship experience. It causes the soul to soar, in fact. This preface goes on to say that every generation responds to the call of Christ in its own distinctive way. There is a need for periodic revision of our hymnals.”

While acknowledging that the whole wealth and history of hymnody cannot possibly be included in each hymnal published, Lenhart said, “The other reality is that the Holy Spirit continues to work when wonderful new hymns are written. They come through you to our world, and they express old ideas in new ways, and new ideas in old ways, and they are important. On behalf of the church, and the wider church, you have brought us a gift of music that will enrich our worship.”

During a major conference on slavery abolition and anti-trafficking that Plymouth held in January 2014, Jones wrote an anti-trafficking hymn.  

“There was a particular spot in the service that David (The Rev. David Fisher, who retired as senior minister in 2013) and I thought Plymouth needed its own hymn. And that was the origin of “These Treasured Children.” It’s a very Plymouth hymn. I was very thrilled to find out that it had been chosen to go in the Presbyterian hymnal!” she said, to much applause.

Indeed, Rev. Fisher’s sermons, as well as other parts of the worship experience, have provided much of the inspiration for these poems.

“The spirituality of Plymouth is very interwoven into this book,” said Jones.

She added, “Hymns are your songs. They are the songs of the people. They are the songs that the worshiping congregations sing to [their] God. I encourage you to take possession of them. Look at the words. Are they good theology? Are they bad theology? Think about the words.”

“And remember,” she said to much laughter, “Not all the writers are dead!”

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Arturo O’Farrill Jazz Ensemble Helps Launch New Evensong Series

All Saints’ Episcopal Church was filled on Sunday evening, worshipers rocking to the rhythms of the Arturo O’Farrill Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra.

O’Farrill and two of his sons and colleague musicians comprise this ensemble, which helped launch a new worship series titled “Evensong at All Saints.” O’Farrill, a parishioner at All Saints’ Church, is also a composer and arranger. He joked that he was not able to keep his musicianship a secret for very long. The series benefits Christian Help in Park Slope (CHiPS), which provides meals, a food pantry and other services to the needy in Brooklyn.

The Evensong liturgy blended traditional Anglican melodies and plainsong chants with O’Farrill’s original works, such as “Industrialistic” (the Processional); a Psalm setting with vocalist Renée Manning; Papo Vazquez’ “Not Now, Right Now” (the Offertory); and “In Whom I Am Well Pleased” (from the Gospel reading of the Baptism of Christ), a work by Arturo O’Farrill. Manning sang their rendition of “Lord, I Want to Be A Christian” as a postlude. And the level of applause brought the orchestra to offer an additional postlude.

Performing with Arturo O’Farrill were his sons, Adam on trumpet and Zachary on drums; Carlo de Rosa on bass; Earl Mcyntire on trombone and Ismel Wingnal on percussion.

A simple soup supper followed the worship. The next Evensong at All Saints will take place on March 15.

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Bishop William Persell Visits Parish Of Which He Was Rector From 1982-1991

Couple Returning to Australia Will Establish Sister Parish There

St. Ann & the Holy Trinity Church welcomed back its former rector for a visit last Sunday. The Rt. Rev. William D. Persell, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Chicago from 1998 until his retirement in 2007, had previously been rector of St. Ann’s from 1982 to 1991, during which time he led a period of growth for the parish at Clinton and Montague streets.

In 1991, Persell was called as the dean of Trinity Cathedral in Cleveland, Ohio (during which time this editor was also singing with the Trinity Cathedral Choir). After he stepped down as bishop of Chicago, Bishop Persell and his wife Nancy returned to Cleveland.

The Persells were warmly greeted during the service. He presided at the Eucharist, with the Rev. John E. Denaro, rector of St. Ann’s, preaching.

Rev. Denaro related a time when he was a young seminarian in the midst of discernment. He wound up at a weekday service at St. Ann, met then-Fr. Persell, and asked him to be a spiritual director.

Rev. Denaro said of the Persells, “They came here and dreamed. They embraced this community and welcomed the arts groups, encouraged and led community efforts, such as interfaith dialogue and community service groups.”

According to an article on the Episcopal Church’s website, Bishop Persell has been a leader for peace and justice in church and society, as well as greater ecumenical and interfaith cooperation and understanding, throughout his ministry, working extensively with faith-based community organizations in Los Angeles, Brooklyn and Cleveland. He is the son of former Bishop Suffragan of Albany, Charles B. Persell Jr.

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During the service, the parish also bid Godspeed to Fiona and Paul Best, of Brisbane, Australia. The Bests had been staying in the community.

“We are sorry to have to say goodbye to them. This is their last Sunday with us,” Rev. Denaro said. “They are going to suggest when they return that St. Mary’s — their home parish — and St. Ann & the Holy Trinity, become sister parishes.”

Addressing Paul and Fiona Best, Fr. Denaro said, “You came and were a model newcomer. You made your presence known. You invited us to know you. We couldn’t be more thankful that you found your way here.”

With a prayer and a special gift — two mugs that read, “With Love from Brooklyn” — Rev. Denaro and the community bid them Godspeed.

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Series Explores Purim as ‘Bawdy, Raucous and Fun’

“Purim: Sex, Drugs and Rock & Roll.”

That’s not a theme one would associate with a Jewish holiday of vindication, perhaps, but Purim is known for its revelry. So believes Rabbi Matt Carl of the East Midwood Jewish Center (EMJC), who will soon present a three-part lecture with the above theme of “Purim: Sex, Drugs and Rock & Roll.”

This three-week course will explore the raucous, bawdy and totally fun side of Purim, arguably the least well-taught of the holidays. Rabbi Carl will also prepare participants for EMJC’s Megillah reading and Purim party in March. Purim falls at sundown on March 4.

The class runs Feb. 12, 19 and 26 at EMJC, 1625 Ocean Ave. Visit, or call 718-338-3800.

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Three Diverse Congregations Show Brooklyn How They Dance

East Midwood Jewish Center (EMJC) will host a World Dance Party in its Grand Ballroom on Feb. 8. This is a chance for members of three partner congregations — EMJC, Our Lady of Refuge Roman Catholic Church and Church of the Nativity Episcopal/Anglican Church — to teach each other their traditional dances.

The World Dance Party runs from 4 to 6 p.m. at EMJC. Visit for more information. 

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Singer Michael Winther Brings ‘Old Love, New Love to Brooklyn

Program Is Part of Forum at St. Ann’s

St. Ann & the Holy Trinity Church will present “Old Love, New Love,” featuring vocalist Michael Winther and piano accompanist Joseph Thalken. Their hour-long concert will include performances of classic standards and new love songs by some of the best emerging contemporary theater composers and lyricists. The event takes place in anticipation of Valentine’s Day (Feb. 14) on Sunday, Feb. 8, at 7 p.m. in the sanctuary of historic St. Ann’s at Clinton and Montague streets in Brooklyn Heights.

Winther, who has racked up countless musical theater credits, is a veteran of the Broadway and Off-Broadway stage. He has headlined numerous concerts in New York City — including playing the popular 54 Below and Lincoln Center’s American Songbook Series. He has also performed at venues around the United States.

Joseph Thalken is an award-winning composer of numerous theater works. Thalken has also written choral, art songs, concert and chamber music. His orchestrations can be heard on albums by Rebecca Luker, Howard McGillen, B.J. Ward and opera star Nathan Gunn, among others. As a pianist and musical director, he has toured extensively with Broadway greats Patti LuPone, Bernadette Peters, Kristin Chenoweth, Brian Stokes Mitchell and many more.

“Old Love, New Love” is open to the public and is a presentation of The Forum @ St. Ann’s. A suggested donation of $25 is requested to benefit The Forum, which seeks to engage the community in conversation about the arts, ideas and civic life.

For further information, call 718-875-6960, contact [email protected], or visit

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Oasis Christian Singles Ministry Hosts Popular Valentine’s Dinner

Oasis Christian Singles Ministry at First Free Evangelical Church in Bay Ridge hosts its most popular event of the year: the Valentine’s Day Dinner. Starting with an Italian buffet dinner and fellowship at 6 p.m., the event includes a singles connection that is centered on God, starting at 7 p.m. Guest speakers Joe and Cherri Freeman will share their testimony of how they met later in life with a message titled “Love Broke Through.” An interactive Q&A period will follow. The Freemans are missionaries from Grace Fellowship International. They travel the world, sharing God’s truth. Musical guest Aaron Louie is worship leader at Grace Christian Church in New Jersey.

Join hundreds of Christian singles of all ages and from all walks of life from throughout the tri-state area for a fun, interactive evening!

The cost is $15 at the door — no advance tickets. Guests are encouraged to come early. The event offers free parking. For directions and information, visit First Evangelical Free Church is at 6501 Sixth Ave. (at 66th St.), near Leif Ericson Park.

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Grace Church’s WinterFair Set for Saturday

Winter is no match for Grace Church-Brooklyn Heights. The landmark parish tackles the snow with its popular WinterFair, on the first weekend of February.

For the past 28 years, parishioner Lynn Vardakis has ably led WinterFair, with her special flair for recognizing people’s talents and delegating them accordingly. WinterFair is, therefore, also a time for great camaraderie.

WinterFair opens on Saturday, Feb. 7, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., featuring beloved attractions: white elephants, books, handcrafted goods, baked treats, the café luncheon from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., and the Gracious Gourmet meals.

During January, a group of dedicated cooks convened to prepare gourmet-quality take-home meals such as Moroccan lamb stew, pork à la Normandie and flounder roulade. 





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