New Utrecht Reformed Church reopens after major restoration

December 20, 2018 By John Alexander Brooklyn Daily Eagle
The renovated church. Photo by Arthur de Gaeta
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After being closed 15 years for major repairs, the historic New Utrecht Reformed Church reopened its doors on Sunday, Dec. 16 for a pre-Christmas service, its first in a decade and a half.

The landmark building, now 190 years old, has undergone major restoration and repairs, including a new cedar shake roof, a new barrel-vaulted interior ceiling, upgraded electrical service and more. Despite additional work still needed on the organ alcove, the congregation and community are now able to worship in the Georgian-Gothic church at 1827 84th St.

While the current church was built in 1828, the New Utrecht Reformed Church dates back to the 17th century. It was founded by Dutch settlers in 1677 and was originally located on what is now the corner of 16th Avenue and 84th Street.

“The congregation is 341 years old this year,” said Susan Hanyen, vice president of the Consistory at New Utrecht Reformed Church.

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Services at the church ended in 2003 when the roof of the building began showing serious signs of deterioration. “They directed us to close the building and we moved to the parish hall until all the repairs were completed,” Hanyen said, adding that this was the church she was baptized in.

Hanyen called the church a community treasure. She said that the goal in rebuilding was to keep the church’s structure specific to the time and place it was built in. “The wish was to make it as close to what we had before, but we never realized how difficult that would be,” she said. “We actually had to recreate what was here and it was difficult, but the amazing thing is that we never lost hope.”

The church’s pastor, the Rev. E.J. Emerson, said that it felt “absolutely awesome” to reopen the church finally. “It was closed when I first started coming here as a pastor,” she said. “When I first went up there this morning, I just stood there in amazement. It’s just beautiful. It’s a comforting sanctuary in every meaning of the world.”

Guests were invited to walk through the refurbished red front doors and join the congregation for Sunday worship. After the service, there was a fellowship hour with coffee and cake in the parish house next door.

Attending the reopening were community leaders and elected officials including City Councilmember Justin Brannan and former Councilmember Vincent Gentile.

“It’s amazing to see how much they went through and to keep the faith that someday this church would re-open is very, very cool,” Brannan told the Eagle. And especially this time of year it’s very special.”

Gentile called it a unique opportunity to be at the reopening. “Think about it, how many of us get the opportunity to be at an historic church reopening.” Gentile said. “I’m just thrilled and feel grateful to be here because this is history in the making.”

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