PARK SLOPE – Hundreds of people attended Easter service at the Old First Reformed Church on Sunday. It was their first time being back after the sanctuary closed in 2011 for massive repairs.
“This morning, we remember the people of Sri Lanka; the worshippers, holiday-goers, people going about their daily lives,” congregant Ann Herpel said at the service, her voice choking. “Heal and sustain those who work for peace. Give our leaders the courage to do what is right. Lead us from fear to friendship, injustice to equality, to enjoy the blessings in this life.”
The service began at 11 a.m. at 729 Carroll Street and lasted about an hour and a half. It celebrated the completion of Phase One of the church’s capital project, which included repairs of the ceiling, floors, and pews – an effort that cost $1.6 million. Phase Two will include the repair of the walls, window, and organ and will cost $4 million. Phase Three will include repairs of the bathroom and classrooms, costing another $4 million.
According to the pastor, Reverand Dr. Daniel Meeter, the sanctuary was just very old and had not been restored/repaired for a long time. It came to a point that the material holding the ceilings together was no longer sturdy, eventually causing the entire ceiling to collapse. When doing the repairs for the ceiling, they thought, why not just repair everything at once? The entire effort is expected to take about $10 million and last a total of ten years.
Wayne Adams is a Gowanus resident who has played a big part in helping to get the church restored and repaired. He was at the Easter Service with his wife and daughter, who was wearing a pink dress and was running around. When asked how it felt to be back, he choked on his words.
“It’s amazing. It’s very emotional having participated in a lot of planning and committee work to get renovations done,” Adams said. “It’s so hard to express. It’s an emotional day.”
The congregation was founded in 1654 and is one of the oldest in the borough. The building features stained glass by Tiffany Studios, an 1891 Roosevelt pipe organ, and a Virgilio Tojetti oil painting.
During the service, children sang hymns with their parents and a little girl was baptized. Peace lilies sat in the front of the church, and after the service, people were encouraged to bring them home.
“The church is not only an architectural pillar of Park Slope but has also been a welcoming place for neighborhood gatherings,” Council Member Brad Lander said. “Even when the sanctuary was off-limits, Pastor Meeter provided space for a homeless shelter, a Hurricane Sandy relief kitchen, and many local organizations. We’re so glad the congregation and the community can now enjoy the building’s heart again, too.”
At the end of the service, there was a free buffet breakfast for congregants and an Easter Egg Hunt in the garden, which Meeter jokingly specified was for children.
“This great space will live again with music and our voices, with color and light,” Meeter said. “On Easter, God opened up the world to a new and unexpected future, and so with great relief and greater hope, we open up this space to God, our congregants, and our beloved Park Slope community. And everyone is welcome, unconditionally.”