Updates on Recent News
This week a permit for full demolition of the St. Lucy-St. Patrick’s Roman Catholic Church on Willoughby Avenue in Bed Stuy was filed in New York City, heralding the demolition of the Church that has been in that location since 1865. The building and the adjacent rectory are slated to be developed into a “sizeable luxury residential building” according to an investment firm; this continues a trend in the borough in recent years.
Nearby in the borough, other houses of worship have opted to alter, extend, preserve, and adapt their buildings for new purposes, including creative hubs.
Also this week, the Hawaiian Episcopal Church volunteer collaboration, “A Cup of Cold Water,” responded to the Hawaiian wildfire devastation. Primary locations of the fire remain largely inaccessible but they are providing outreach to distribute basic necessities, support and create access to shelter, and account for church membership. The Episcopal Diocese of Hawai’i reports that they are preparing to “assess the best ways to approach the cleanup process” after accounting for their members. More than 1,000 people remain missing and many of the deceased in Hawaii remain unidentified.
Safety and Security for Houses of Worship
Last week in New Jersey, an imam was stabbed while leading prayer at a mosque. Events like these have led some houses of worship to establish safety ministries, which include security teams, safety training, security plans, and liability insurance.
The number of antisemitic incidents in the United States last year reached the highest level since 1979, since the Anti-Defamation League began keeping track, with 26 calls threatening violence at synagogues from New York to California over just the last month. Earlier this month a federal jury in Pittsburgh voted to impose the death penalty on a man who killed 11 worshipers in a synagogue in 2018 - widely considered the nation’s deadliest anti-Semitic attack.
The federal government offers resources for emergency and disaster planning and management. FEMA offers faith based volunteer and partner resources on its website for houses of faith to plan for security threats, emergencies, and disasters.
As we noted several weeks ago, The New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS) has released funding to strengthen security measures and prevent hate crimes against nonprofit community and civic centers, cultural museums, day care centers, and other nonprofit organizations - and is expected to release another round of funding through the Securing Communities Against Hate Crimes Program in December 2023.
Houses of Faith as Safe Havens
Houses of worship are using their sacred sites to pull double duty as safe havens and a resource for their community. Recently, a local church in Georgia was lauded after it converted a long-unused room for first responders on the job. The Pastor said they “wanted to give them a place where they would be comfortable” as “many of them did not have an opportunity to worship on Sundays.”
Meanwhile, debate continues over how to classify and keep open houses of worship during emergencies. This week Wisconsin became another state to propose a constitutional amendment to exempt worship venues from emergency closings. Two arguments for houses of faith being exempt is so that they can continue to provide essential services during emergencies, such as spiritual advising, and maintaining religious freedom..
In California, a Jewish multiracial summer camp offers a haven for kids from all over the world. This year’s camp was a success. One of the campers explained, “When I was younger, I felt so alienated and so alone. I get told every day that you’re different, you don’t belong here, because I’m part of so many different minorities,” she said. “And here is kind of a place where everybody belongs to a lot of those minorities. … Not everybody is the same here, but we’re all different together.”