Chunks of plaster falling from the sanctuary’s 60-foot ceiling has forced the congregation of Park Slope’s , a historically landmarked building with a congregation dating back to 1654, to celebrate Christmas services in their small Sunday school hall next door, according to the Daily News.
The church’s pastor, Dr. Daniel Meeter, said this is a tough time for the institution, which is adorned with the second-tallest steeple in Brooklyn and has the oldest congregation in the borough, 347 years and counting.
“We know it’s going to be a challenge, but we will rise to it. We also know how much the neighborhood and larger community loves this church and depend on it for so many things, especially for spirituality and hope, no matter what their religion,” Meeter said, adding that the damage will not affect the place of worship’s other ministries but the sanctuary is closed indefinitely. “We know how much support we have, and we know what our mission is. With God’s help, we will do it.”
The report says the damage began in September, and church officials were told earlier this month that the ceiling was too unstable to hold services. The church has already spent more than $23,000 in emergency repairs, and the cost of the whole ceiling repair could be between $500,000 to almost $1 million, according to the Daily News.
The church was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1998 and is known for its intricate stained glass, its Roosevelt pipe organ and its acoustics.
This summer, the church started the Respite Shelter, , offering a meal and a place to sleep on weeknights throughout the summer for 10 to 12 individuals.
Patch's Louise Crawford this summer and called it "a clean and humane place to spend the night."
Councilmember Brad Lander, who also volunteered to work at the church’s shelter last summer, said the church is an important cultural and religious institution of Park Slope.
“Old First Church is a true treasure of our community, a compelling historic landmark, a welcoming religious community and an essential civic space. Its beauty, grandeur, and history are plain for all to see,” Lander said. “Old First not only houses prayer and fellowship—it also serves as the go-to place for our community meetings, our kids' drama performances, summer camp, AA and other support groups…As the church has so often been there for the community, now we must work together to preserve Old First in its hour of need."
The church is now taking donations to help cover the ceiling repair costs. Donors can give online at http://www.oldfirstbrooklyn.org.