The new Brooklyn (New York) Peace Church, a church plant of Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC), and in partnership with Brooklyn Peace Center, held its first service on October 9, 2022. The church opening was delayed for two years due to renovations and the COVID-19 pandemic. With about 15 in attendance, the service was contemplative and reflective, centering on the gospel of peace. Attendees sang songs focusing on peace and justice from the Voices Together hymnal, led by Kate Umble Smucker, Peace Church launch team member.
Several weeks ago, Brooklyn Peace Church hosted its second church service, welcoming former members of Primera Iglesia Menonita de Brooklyn, who previously worshiped in this sanctuary, as well as pastors (and members) from Grace and Peace Mennonite Church, North Bronx Mennonite Church, Manhattan Mennonite Fellowship, and Believers Mennonite Garifuna Ministries. Maria Aponte, social worker at New York Mennonite Immigration Program, provided translation.
Jason Storbakken, who currently provides pastoral, liturgical and organizational support for Brooklyn Peace Church, was initially contacted by organizers from the congregation and felt a calling to be involved in the church’s reopening.
“God puts us in the messiness to work through it, I’m just trusting God, discerning, and helping to create space,” said Storbakken. “My hope is to work with the core group as they identify their structure, to be a support to them.”
The church services are bilingual with meditative practices, such as Lectio Divina (or passage meditation), among others. Ray and Anne Pacheco, who have a deep connection to Primera Iglesia Menonita de Brooklyn (and who served as pastors over different seasons), are part of the developing leadership team.
Bienvenido Manon, Brooklyn Peace Church member, added that, for him, the first service back was a good experience because of the family-friendly environment.
“In the end, we are brother and sister, that means we are family who belong to the body of Jesus Christ,” said Manon. “My vision for the Brooklyn Peace Center is to be of service to the community.”
Umble Smucker and her husband, Hans Smucker, are members of the launch team at Brooklyn Peace Church and have been part of the church launch. For Smucker, the impactful moments of the first church service were sharing the history of the space with former members and reflecting on how the space influenced their lives.
“Soon, too, I hope the Brooklyn Peace Church can provide a space for the community to come and experience God in a variety of yet undefined ways,” said Smucker. “The unknown can be daunting, but also freeing at the same time, as we reimagine what an urban church can be and how God’s children can come and find rest and support.”
The Brooklyn Peace Center building originally housed a synagogue (1891-1962) and, more recently, Primera Iglesia Menonita de Brooklyn (1962-2019). Today, it hosts Brooklyn Peace Church, as well as Peace Café, a nonprofit that serves as a community hub. The center continues to expand as organizers are interested in the development of a space that is non-traditional, expansive and invitational. Several like-minded organizations share office space in the center, including the New York Mennonite Immigration Program and Radical Living, an environmental justice youth organization.
Written by Christle Hain
Mennonite Church USA is the largest Mennonite denomination in the United States with 16 conferences, approximately 540 congregations and 56,000 members. An Anabaptist Christian denomination, MC USA is part of Mennonite World Conference, a global faith family that includes churches in 59 countries. It has offices in Elkhart, Indiana and Newton, Kansas. mennoniteUSA.org
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