Brooklyn Boro

Faith In Brooklyn for Oct. 1

October 1, 2015 By Francesca Norsen-Tate, Religion Editor Brooklyn Daily Eagle
The sukkah at Congregation Beth Elohim. Photo credit: Ben Kulo Photography
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Brooklyn Architect Erects ‘Living’ Sukkah for Jewish Harvest Holiday

Every year, Congregation Beth Elohim (CBE) in Park Slope erects a sukkah for the Jewish holiday of Sukkot. This year, in the spirit of harvest, the sukkah comes alive.

Park Slope architect and CBE member Susan Doban has constructed a “living” sukkah in which one of the walls is made entirely of plants. The sukkah went up Sept. 24 and will stand until Oct. 7 on the corner of Garfield Place and Eighth Avenue in Park Slope.

Sukkot, a Hebrew word meaning “booths” or “huts,” refers to the Jewish festival of giving thanks for the fall harvest. It also commemorates the 40 years of Jewish wandering in the desert after the giving of the Torah atop Mt. Sinai. Sukkot is marked by several distinct traditions. One, which takes the commandment to dwell in booths literally, is to erect a sukkah — a small, temporary booth or hut. Sukkot (in this case, the plural of sukkah) are commonly used during the seven-day festival for eating, entertaining and even for sleeping.

When discussing Doban’s sukkah design, CBE’s new Senior Rabbi Rachel Timoner said, “Innovative, eye-opening design brings us joy, enabling us to celebrate together the miracle of our existence. This particular sukkah with its living wall reminds us of our home in the natural world, even as we dwell amidst an urban center. The living, growing sukkah, the transparent walls, its glow at night will surprise passersby and bring delight to refresh our experience of this holiday, which is all about connecting with nature, connecting with each other and connecting with the Source of our lives.”

Doban has been collaborating with Peter Shafiroff of Brooklyn’s Think Fabricate to construct the plywood sukkah, which complies with biblical instructions that the roof be made of natural materials, with a portion open to the sky. Shelves and cross beams are provided as structural elements, but also offer opportunities for congregants to apply their own decorations. A composition of solid and void, resulting from careful placement of plywood panels, creates opportunity for light to penetrate the walls of the sukkah in interesting patterns. The sukkah measures 10-by-15 feet long and runs parallel to the sanctuary building. The sukkah was prefabricated in Think Fabricate’s Greenpoint shop with the help of Arielle Lappe, Molly Mason, Matthew Carlsen and Max Varrialle and Chuck Dorr of Dig Garden Shop.

Rabbi Timoner is joining congregants in the sukkah for festive potluck dinners every night during the week-long holiday of Sukkot. This gives the new rabbi an opportunity to interact with congregants in an intimate environment. CBE’s religious school and other small groups are also taking turns visiting and decorating the sukkah throughout the holiday.

A Sukkot block party is scheduled for Oct. 4 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Garfield Place between Eighth Avenue and Prospect Park West in Park Slope. This event, with live music and activities for kids, is free and open to the public.

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Papal Visit 2015: Volunteers Live Out Pope Francis’ Vision of Faith Through Action

Last Friday, Sept. 25, Brooklyn Catholics who were not at Pope Francis’ Mass at Madison Square Garden were still living out their faith through action. Many gathered at the Co-Cathedral of St. Joseph in Prospect Heights for a social justice drive.

DeSales Media Group, the communications and technology arm of the Diocese of Brooklyn, organized a social initiative to feed the hungry in New York City’s five boroughs. A group of faithful from the Diocese of Brooklyn, including religious men and women from religious orders, parishioners and volunteers, worked to make sandwiches and provide other goods.

Utilizing nine vans, they made 29 delivery stops that night around multiple locations in Brooklyn and the other four boroughs.

Pope Francis, during his visit to New York City, called on Catholics to be proactive by living their faith more fully and more deeply. DeSales Media Group and the participating volunteers intend to put into practice the Catholic faith, while also trying to create awareness of the “stranger among us,” seeing Christ in the face of the poor and vulnerable.

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Shir Chadash Jewish Choral Group Holds Auditions

Shir Chadash, the Brooklyn Jewish community chorus, welcomes interested singers to audition. The ensemble meets on Tuesdays from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. at the Park Slope Jewish Center. Shir Chadash is a professionally directed volunteer chorus that performs at least twice per year.

Those who are interested in attending and auditioning at the first rehearsal on Tuesday, Oct. 13 at 7:30 p.m. should contact [email protected].

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Retrospective: Meeting Phyllis Tickle

Noted Religion Author Dies at 81, Had Presented Talk at Grace Church

Founder of Publisher’s Weekly Religion Section, Tickle Was Well-Versed in Theology, ‘Emerging Church’

Religion writers often carry a great respect for one another. Having the opportunity to meet and exchange ideas in person is an extra gift, one that I experienced last year when author and theologian Phyllis Tickle presented a talk at Grace Church-Brooklyn Heights on the “Emerging Church.” Tickle died last Tuesday, Sept. 22, after a courageous battle with lung cancer.

Author Phyllis Tickle’s talk at Grace Church on Feb. 8, 2014 was one of the last she would give. Indeed, at that event, Tickle said that she was concluding her lecture circuits. Then, in May 2015, she was diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer. She died last week, nine months after her husband Sam’s passing.

The Tennessee native taught for many years. She is best known for having established the religion section at Publisher’s Weekly and for her landmark work, published in 2008, “The Great Emergence: How Christianity Is Changing and Why.” The book explored a new expression of Christianity.

“Emergence Christianity,” also called “The Emerging Church,” is a movement “that challenges traditional Christian teachings and seeks new ways of practicing the faith in the post-modern world,” according to a profile on Tickle published in The Huffington Post.

Advocates of the Emerging Church seek to transcend labels and tradition, and live out faith in new ways relevant to current society’s needs. An example would be reaching young people who are disillusioned with religion as they were raised, but who thirst for a connection with the divine.

Tickle’s 2013 book, titled “The Age of the Spirit: How the Ghost of an Ancient Controversy Is Shaping the Church,” carried this theme further. She also wrote “Evangelist of the Future.”

In addition, she produced a range of essays and books on faith and life, including the popular and successful series on “The Divine Hours,” about the power of daily fixed-hour prayer. Although she had been raised a Presbyterian, Tickle found herself drawn to the Episcopal Church and its liturgy. She dubbed herself “the world’s worst, most devout evangelical Episcopalian.”

As in her books, Tickle’s talks blended insightful wit with a solid grounding in theology, church history, faith and spirituality.

Tickle began her talk that day at Grace Church with the story of the early church at Antioch.

Describing herself as a “Trinitarian” rather than as a Pentecostal, she synopsized the history of the Christian church, up to the present and including the Pentecostal movement that began with the 1906 Azusa Street Revival in Los Angeles, California. This movement was racially and gender-inclusive, and welcomed people of many ethnic groups, all “praying in the Holy Spirit.”

Answering a question about declining membership in the mainstream Christian denominations, Tickle referred to the Emperor Constantine’s legalization of Christianity in the Fourth century, A.D.

She said, “The most dangerous thing in the world for your soul is to be part of a religion that’s socially acceptable. I’ve said that for years; it truly is scary.

“Somewhere between 30 and 70 percent of us are ‘spiritual but not religious’ … Again, depending on the demographer, somewhere between 50 and 70 percent of those people who are not religious pray at least once a day. That is not atheist. Those are believers whom we have failed in some way.

“Speaking of Emergent Church preachers — and there are millions of them in this country now — whatever their flavor, whatever you want to say about them, they are categorically allergic to doctrine. There is an acute error in thinking that our minds can reduce God Almighty to an outline of what it is that is being said, or that can entrap it…”

Tickle interrupted her thought, saying, “One of the books that I am going to go home to write is that by 2050, we’re going to be calling ourselves Judeo-Christians. That does not mean that they are going to be calling themselves Christo-Jews,” she laughed. “One of the things that is making the difference already — and there are Emergent Jews — is midrash.”

This is rabbinic literature that explores ethics and other issues, sometimes in a rhetorical or hypothetical way. For example, examining why Adam could not prevent Eve from eating the apple, or why King David so mishandled the Uriah/Bathsheba debacle and the rape of his daughter Tamar by one of his sons.  

“One of the things that Emergents are doing is opening up the questions,” Tickle said.

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