Fort Greene

Historic Ft. Greene church calls native Brooklynite as new pastor

September 13, 2017 By Francesca Norsen Tate, Religion Editor Brooklyn Daily Eagle
The Rev. David F. Telfort begins a new ministry as pastor of the Lafayette Ave. Presbyterian Church, in his native Brooklyn. Photo by Luis P Gutierrez

Rev. Telfort Is Also First African-American Permanent Pastor in Church’s 160 Years

This Sunday, Sept. 17, will be a true Brooklyn homecoming for both the Rev. David Telfort and the Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church.

Many churches hold “Homecoming Day” services to launch a new year of programming and special ministries. And for the Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church the word “homecoming” will take on new meaning because its new pastor is returning to his native Brooklyn. The congregation will welcome the Rev. David F. Telfort home to the borough as he becomes the first African-American permanent (called) pastor in its 160-year history.

After an exhaustive 18-month nationwide search, the Brooklyn congregation selected Telfort to serve as the church’s eighth installed pastor. Founded by abolitionists in 1857, the historic Brooklyn church is a multiracial, multicultural congregation with a long history of progressive leadership, social justice work and community engagement.

“We are delighted that Rev. Telfort has accepted the call to serve as pastor here at LAPC,” reads a statement that the LAPC Pastor Nominating Committee released on Sept. 13. “His preaching and leadership qualities stood out, along with his deep commitment to social justice. As a church founded by abolitionists, social justice is a central ministry of LAPC along with Christian education, faith-inspired music and community engagement. The Pastor Nominating Committee feels that Rev. Telfort’s pastoral experience strongly aligns with what matters to our congregation and that he is passionate about connecting with the Fort Greene community. We are excited to have Rev. Telfort shepherd our church into its next chapter, especially as Fort Greene continues to grow and evolve.”

The son of Haitian immigrants, Telfort is a graduate of Yale Divinity School. He most recently served as an associate minister at Plymouth United Church of Christ in Des Moines, Iowa. Telfort began his tenure here at LAPC last month on August 16. His formal installation as permanent pastor will take place later this fall.

Telfort’s faith journey began early in life. Ordained ministry runs in his family. He grew up in a Wesleyan church in East Flatbush; his father is currently a Wesleyan pastor in Newark, N.J.

While working towards his BA degree at Occidental College, Telfort explored a career in finance, interning for a private equity firm. In 2010, he changed course to explore ministry as a vocation.

Telfort’s leadership development and language skills were put to good use during a recent weeklong church delegation visit to Cuba and as a group facilitator for The Forum for Theological Exploration. He is a member of the Institute for Responsible Citizenship Alumni Association, an organization that mentors talented young African American men. Under the auspices of the Academy of Preachers, Telfort has preached for churches both domestically and abroad.

“I am thrilled to have been called to serve as pastor at LAPC — a church that has a history of dynamic, inclusive and radical ministry,” said Telfort. “It feels good to be home. Homecomings are filled with myriad emotions and responsibilities but also endless possibilities. This church plays a critical role as a hub for social justice and advocacy here in the neighborhood and the broader community. People are craving a place where they can wrestle with the big questions of faith, experience stirring worship, and engage in liberating work. We want folks to know that LAPC is that place.”

The history of LAPC is a living compilation of many stories, shared over time with faith and affection, from by the 15,000 men, women and children who have been members of the congregation over the past 160 years.

One example of this multigenerational testimony can be found in the sanctuary: the “Cloud of Witnesses” murals (referenced in Hebrews 12:1-2). This mural series was made possible through a 1976 bequest from Elise Woodward Stutzer that enabled the church to commission the work. A Pratt Institute graduate at the time, Hank Prussing, “conceived the mural to reflect the diversity of the community and the church. He went out into the streets of Fort Greene, taking photographs of neighborhood people and activities,” according to a narrative on the church’ website.

When asked about his plans for LAPC’s future, Telfort said, “I look forward to getting to know the church, local leaders and stakeholders in the neighborhood and community over the coming weeks and months. Through these conversations I anticipate that a shared vision for innovation and capacity building for justice will emerge. We will go where the voice of the people leads us.”