Brooklyn Boro

Faith In Brooklyn for Jan. 28

January 28, 2016 By Francesca Norsen Tate, Religion Editor Brooklyn Daily Eagle
WinterFair wizard Lynn Vardakis relaxes for a moment on the big day. Photo courtesy of Franklin Stone
Share this:

Popular Grace Church WinterFair Approaches

Marks Lynn Vardakis’ 30th Year as Organizer

When WinterFair at Grace Church opens its doors on Saturday, Feb. 6, it will mark parishioner Lynn Vardakis’ 30th year as the wizard of this beloved neighborhood tradition. She accepted the leadership mantle for WinterFair in 1987.

“Detail, flexibility and resourcefulness” are the keys in organizing large events such as WinterFair, she told the Brooklyn Eagle on Jan. 26. Add to these attributes her knack for recognizing the talents of her volunteers, effective delegation and a balanced temperament.

News for those who live, work and play in Brooklyn and beyond

Vardakis also credits her whole team of volunteers, particularly Kate Rock and Brianna McCarty, for their overall leadership.

This year’s WinterFair will again feature a luncheon of both meat and vegetarian selections, as well as many booths for clothes, musical recordings, books, toys crafts of many kinds, a flea market and a men’s and women’s boutique couture. Carl Weisser will be present to design art silhouettes.

In addition to the luncheon for adults, WinterFair will also offer a Kids Café.

WinterFair opens at 10 a.m. and runs until 3 p.m. Grace Church is at 254 Hicks St. between Grace Court and Joralemon Street in Brooklyn Heights. The luncheon runs from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. For more information, call the parish office at 718-624-1850.

* * *

Brooklynite Oran Etkin in Concert

‘Reimagining Benny Goodman’

Oran Etkin in “Reimagining Benny Goodman” will come to Music at the Center on Feb. 6.

Music at the Center is a new, family-friendly music series at the East Midwood Jewish Center (EMJC). The program aims to introduce a new generation to the “King of Swing.”

The Feb. 6 program will feature the internationally known jazz world artist and composer performing the music of Benny Goodman, the “King of Swing” of the 1930s.

Goodman was known for combining the rhythms of African-American jazz and the cry of the blues with the wailing sound of Jewish traditional melodies to create a new movement of music and dance that historians say helped to carry the country through the difficult period of the Depression. This new movement quickly spread throughout the world.

Etkin created the “Reimagining Benny Goodman” show to honor these accomplishments. Fans rave that Etkin takes the clarinet “to dizzy heights with first-class instrument dynamics, control and improvisation.”

This program comes hot off the success of last month’s first concert of the season, which featured Benjamin Lapidos and Sonido Isleno. EMJC President Toby Sanchez is confident that the series will continue to grow steadily.

“Our music programs highlight the talents of local performers like Oran Etkin, while providing Manhattan-quality entertainment at Brooklyn prices,” she said. “Bring the kids, bring the strollers; all ages are welcome here.”

Attendees will have the chance to meet the artists after the concert.

Tickets for the event are $25/adults; $20/seniors; $10/teens. Children 13 and under will be admitted free. Tickets will be available at the door, but can also be purchased online now via

Upcoming concerts will feature Gregory Harrington on Feb. 27 and Jinah Park and Friends on April 3.

 * * *

Royal Danish Opera Academy Singers Conclude

Their Master Class with Concert at Grace

Three young Scandinavian singers who are finishing an opera master class in New York City will give a special concert at Grace Church-Brooklyn Heights on Sunday, Jan 31.

A Danish mezzo-soprano and two Swedish baritones from the Royal Danish Opera Academy will perform arias and duets by Mozart, Bellini and Saint-Saëns, as well as some beautiful Scandinavian songs. The accompanist will be the Manhattan School of Music’s pianist David Stech. This 7 p.m. concert is free. The church is at 254 Hicks St. near Joralemon Street.

* * *

OASIS Christian Singles Ministry

Hosts Pre-Valentine’s Day Dinner

OASIS presents its Singles Annual Valentine’s Dinner and Fellowship, considered to be Brooklyn’s largest Christ-centered Christian singles event, on Feb. 6.

Hundreds of Christian singles throughout the tri-state area, of all ages and from all walks of life, will gather at Bay Ridge’s First Free Evangelical Church for a fun, interactive evening, according to organizers.

OASIS is a Christian singles ministry at First Free Evangelical Church.

The evening starts at 6 p.m. with a buffet dinner and fellowship. All singles are welcome — by themselves or with friends.

“OASIS is a very friendly place. If you are tired of the singles scene and looking for something more meaningful, this is the place,” affirms Cindy Galdal-Ruperto, director of the OASIS Ministry.

She strongly urges participants to arrive on time at 6 p.m. when doors open and dinner begins. The menu will offer two choices: baked ziti, salad and bread, or rigatoni with meat sauce, salad and bread.

Following dinner, a Singles Connection program at 7 p.m. beckons, “Let’s connect with God and each other.” Galdal-Ruperto will share her testimony of how she met her husband later in life with a message of hope and God’s faithfulness. Her talk is titled “God Has Not Forgotten You.” An interactive Q&A period will be offered.

Joining Galdal-Ruperto will be musical guest Aaron Louie, worship leader at Grace Christian Church in New Jersey, and soloist Anna LoPiccolo, who ministers in song throughout the New York City area.

Dessert and fellowship wrap up the evening from 8:30 to 10 p.m. Admission is $15 at the door.  No advance tickets are sold.

All Oasis events are held at First Evangelical Free Church, 6501 Sixth Ave. The church is adjacent to Leif Ericson Park.

* * *  

Grace Church Honors Longtime Parish Leaders

With Award Named for Its Founding Rector

Grace Church-Brooklyn Heights recently honored two longtime members of the community with its annual Francis Vinton Award, named for Grace Church’s first rector at the time of the parish’s founding in 1847.

The recipients of the 2016 Francis Vinton Awards are Parish Administrator Sally Larson and Craig Whitney for their distinguished service. Larson’s voice greets callers daily, and she is a head chef and caterer for many of the church’s dinners and other social events.  Whitney has served as vestry member and guest organist. A veteran New York Times editor and foreign correspondent, Whitney is also the author of “All the Stops: The Glorious Pipe Organ and its American Masters.”

Both have been honored by other local organizations, including the Heights & Hills Community Council (Larson) and the American Guild of Organists-Brooklyn Chapter’s Person of the Year (Whitney).

The Rev. Stephen D. Muncie, rector of Grace Church, told the Brooklyn Eagle how the award was established.

“After my arrival at Grace, I knew I wanted to establish a society to honor parishioners who have exercised commendable and distinguished leadership in our congregation. The dedication of faithful churchmen and churchwomen inspire all of us in our ministries. Francis Vinton was our first rector. His visionary leadership contributed to the organization of Grace Church in 1847 and the construction of this beautiful church several years later.”

Vinton Society honorees have typically contributed to parish life for many years — often decades — serving in a variety of ways.

The inaugural Vinton Society honorees in 2010 were Lynn Vardakis and Bronson Binger (who is now deceased). Past honorees included Thomas Pace and Jill Gilbert in 2015, Thomas Chittenden and Ann Gaffney in 2014, Jim Yglesias (who died earlier this month) and Dorothy Pilch in 2013, Anita Yglesias (honored posthumously) and Charles Cole in 2012, and Lois Osborne and Vernon Vig in 2011.

* * *

Milestones in Faith

Sacred Hearts-St. Stephen’s Church

St. Stephen’s Church Building Survived Robert Moses’ Plan for BQE

During January, the parish of Sacred Hearts-St. Stephen’s Church celebrated the milestone of one of the churches for which it was named.

St. Stephen’s Catholic Church was established in 1866 when Rev. Arthur J. Dorris purchased a small frame church on Carroll and Hicks streets from local Episcopalians, according to a history of the parish, an American Guild of Organists-Brooklyn Chapter document on the church’s organ and a recent article in The Tablet, a Roman Catholic diocesan newspaper. That building is said to be the former location of St. Paul Episcopal Church, which now sits at the corner of Clinton and Carroll streets.

Bishop John Loughlin, the first Roman Catholic bishop of Brooklyn, dedicated the community to St. Stephen Promartyr in the summer of 1866, and it became the smallest parish, by square miles, in the diocese.

The parish boundaries for St. Stephen’s were DeGraw Street, Henry Street, Cole Street and Hamilton Avenue to the ferry. The first church was the former St. Paul Episcopal Church on the corner of Carroll and Hicks streets. Built in the Cottage Gothic style, the church measured 95 feet long by 65 feet wide and could accommodate about 600 persons, according to the American Guild of Organists document.

Inside, the church was handsomely furnished with cushioned pews and carpeted aisles, and the painted drab color walls were blocked out to imitate stone. On Sunday, July 15, 1866, Bishop Loughlin dedicated the new St. Stephen’s Church, with Rev. Dorris assisting.

A larger church — to meet the needs of the growing Irish immigrant population — by the noted Brooklyn architect Patrick C. Keely was dedicated on Oct. 31, 1875.

St. Stephen’s soon gained the reputation as the New York Bay Church for its illuminated steeple cross serving as a beacon to mariners entering the “bellissimo lago di San Germano,” as the Catholic explorer John da Verrazzano once called the nearby bay.

During the early years of the parish history, St. Frances Cabrini, who later became the first naturalized-American Roman Catholic saint, ministered to parishioners. [Although she was born a century later than Elizabeth Ann Seton, the latter was canonized some 29 years after Cabrini.]

City planner Robert Moses’ design for the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway had no regard for Brooklyn’s neighborhoods. His design would run the expressway right through the middle of the parish and force the closure of neighboring churches. Among these was Sacred Hearts of Mary and Jesus, with a history all its own. Sacred Hearts parish merged with St. Stephen’s.

According to the Tablet article by Antonina Zielinska, Bishop James Massa preached the opening service of a yearlong sesquicentennial (150th) celebration. He told parishioners that, on Dec. 7, 1941, the same day as the Pearl Harbor attack, the pastor of the newly merged parish, Father Arsenio Caprio, “gathered the community for one last Mass in the old church … and then processed to the new home.”

Upcoming events in the sesquicentennial year of Sacred Hearts-St. Stephen’s parish will include celebrations of church patron St. Stephen, and the link shared with St. Paul Episcopal Church.

* * *

CB 17 Holds Education Resource Fair

The Education Committee of Community Board 17 will hold an Education Resource Fair on Saturday, Feb. 6. The fair is designed to showcase various internship, apprenticeship, volunteer and employment opportunities available for young people.

It runs from 2 to 6 p.m. at I.S./P.S. 109, 1001 East 45th St., between Glenwood and Farragut roads. 


Leave a Comment

Leave a Comment