NOBODY’S HISTORY BUT OUR OWN

When the now demolished New Grace Methodist Episcopal Church of Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, was built in 1899, a time capsule was placed in its cornerstone by the local Methodist denomination. The Brooklyn Eagle of October 22, 1899 reported:

In the little copper box which was placed in the corner stone were a Bible, a hymn book, a book containing the names of the members of the Ladies’ Aid Society, the Epworth League and the Building Committee; a photograph of Simon De Nyne, now deceased, a pioneer Methodist in the Bay Ridge section; a history of the church, a picture of the first church of the Methodist denomination in the vicinity, which was erected on Cowenhoven’s lane in 1830; a picture of the second church, which stood on Stewart avenue, and a photograph of the present church [in addition to a newspaper account of the capture of Manilla by Admiral Dewey]…. Brooklyn Paper

The Gothic-designed New Grace Methodist, at the corner of Fourth and Ovington avenues, eventually came to be known as the “Green Church” after its green-toned exterior. The church was a familiar presence in the neighborhood, a memento to a mostly forgotten time, and was viewed as the most historic site in that neighborhood; indeed, it had attained landmark status.

In 2008, Green Church was, quite controversially, torn down to make way for a “new modern church” and a “public elementary school,” according to Pastor Robert Emerick. However, the controversy was replaced with further controversy (not to mention outrage) last week during a meeting at the Greenhouse Café on Third Avenue. Pastor Emerick, after issuing a public welcome to discuss the church’s future (and, as most assumed, its past), suddenly refused to share the contents of the famed time capsule with reporters.

“This is a private event — we don’t want pictures,” Emerick said — ignoring the invitation in his own press release, “Visitors and guests are welcome.”

A strange thing mystifying when a church refuses to share its history (its cultural significance) with the public. After all, a legitimate church’s function is to serve the community (hence, the public), not turn it away. The visitors and guests (including reporters) who were initially “welcome” to this public event need to question such unwelcome treatment; indeed, they should be duly suspicious.

Brooklyn Paper

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