A historic Bedford–Stuyvesant church is getting a $200,000 makeover to repair water damage that forced the temporary closure of the beloved house of worship.
Varick Memorial African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church is home to the borough’s oldest continuous black congregations, and will now be able to serve the community again thanks to a construction grant from the National Trust’s African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund.
Varick Memorial has stood at the corner of Quincy Street and Patchen Avenue for decades, welcoming a diverse crowd each week until the water infiltration damaged the building.
Brent Leggs, executive director of the African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund and senior vice president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, says with the help of the preservation grant, the Brooklyn church should be able to get back on its feet.
“We understood that our $200,000 investment would be transformational for this church so we’re delighted that these funds will restore the church with the goal of helping them reopen their doors to support the community’s religious health but also to continue to share their important community programs,” Leggs told Brooklyn Paper.
A spokesman with National Trust, says this financial gift will go towards critical restoration for the building, giving the congregation a place to gather once again and help the church restore its “high-impact community programs.”
Action Fund, a project within National Trust, sifted through over 1,266 funding proposals nation-wide before selecting 35 churches to receive the grant.
According to the executive director, this was a seven month-long evaluation period, where organization leaders completed a comprehensive internal evaluation process of each proposal.
In their observation, they looked for religious centers that were architecturally diverse and in areas with rich histories.
“Diversity is critically important to us but I think the guiding direction is we want to support churches that are facing severe threats and many black churches are facing a myriad of challenges such as insufficient funding, deferred maintenance, small declining congregations, demolition and other issues,” he said.
Varick met their criteria, and stood out due to its longstanding reputation in the neighborhood.
“This church is one of the oldest black churches still standing in Brooklyn and it has been a community anchor in Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood,” Leggs said. “We’re delighted to amplify these profound stories but also really uplift and celebrate these stewards of American history.”