Bless this mess: Baptists rally to resurrect landmarked Greenpoint church

Bless this mess: Baptists rally to resurrect landmarked Greenpoint church
Photo by Jason Speakman

It is going to take more than one carpenter to save this old church.

Two pastors are seeking some divine financial intervention to redeem a historic Greenpoint house of worship the city has deemed a safety hazard. The congregation of the 160-year-old Union Baptist Church on Noble Street had to vacate the building when it was unable to keep up with repairs, but the church’s time in the wilderness is the first step on the path to salvation, said an intervening holy man.

“The church lost its way,” said pastor Mike Newburger of the North Brooklyn Baptist Church, who swooped in when he heard the building — which is part of the Greenpoint Historic District — was in dire shape. “They lost their way a little bit, and it took the city stepping in to snap them out of it.”

The worshippers at the sanctuary — who have long been without a pastor of their own — reached out to Newburger and his colleague Rev. Pete Montoro of the Open Door Bible Baptist Church in Queens when the Department of Buildings slammed their structure with a full vacate order in October.

The two have since rallied around the displaced parish, and are currently spreading the word to help raise the dough needed for the fix-up.

The Civil War-era building’s facade is deteriorating and the crumbling roof is a concussion waiting to happen, according to city records. The basic repairs that will allow the congregation to safely re-enter the building, which include reinforcing stained glass windows that are in danger of collapsing, will add up to around $250,000, according to the preachers.

Newburger and Montoro say they have already raised $107,000 just by reaching out to other Baptist churches across the country, and are now in the process of applying for grants available through the Landmarks Preservation Commission.

In the meantime, the churchgoers are shacking up with Montoro’s parishioners for joint services in Queens — once the building is safe again, he will take over as head pastor as the duo restore the building to its original glory.

But the spirit of the church will remain the same, even after it changes hands, Newburger vowed.

“Our intention is that it be the same sort of independent Baptist church that it always was,” he said.

And keeping the holy spirit alive there has never been more important, say the two parishioners — in an area where developers are gobbling up the borough’s houses of God for residential conversions left and right, it is important to preserve churches that can afford to keep the faith.

“We believe that this neighborhood has seen enough churches turned into condos over the last few years,” said Montoro in a press release about his plans to restore the church. “That will not be happening to the Union Baptist Church.”

Reach reporter Allegra Hobbs at ahobbs@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–8312.