Locked out church congregants hold annual meeting

A Boerum Hill congregation may still be locked out of their church, but it won’t stop them from holding their annual meeting — in Brooklyn Heights.

The Bethlehem Lutheran Church, located at 490 Pacific Street, has been shuttered for more than a year by decree of the Metropolitan New York Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America in a battle between the church hierarchy and rank-and-file congregation members.

“This has been an outrage,” said Rev. Dr. Norman F. David, the senior pastor of Bethlehem. “Though small, the 30 or so members kept the church open, held regular services on Sunday, and provided space for other religious and community groups to use.”

David explained that when congregants found out the church was going to be closed they took it upon themselves to rent out the facility to social service and religious organizations.

The congregation has been able to bring in between $150,000 and $200,000 annually.

The money has been used to rehabilitate the church in the hopes of renewing its mission to become a part of the community, he said.

However, since the synod took control of the church through the Kings County court system in January, congregants have been locked out.

“We have sent a number of letters and overtures to the synod and invited them to talk to us and they have not responded at all to any of these overtures to dialogue,” said David.

David said although the congregation is locked out, some see an occasional light on in the church parsonage so they suspect someone is keeping order inside the house of worship.

Many suspect that the synod is planning to sell the property, he said.

Calls to the synod went unreturned.

Since the closing of the church, congregants have been holding their Saturday services either outdoors or at P.S. 38 at 450 Pacific Street, which is next door.

They have also held services at Zion German Evangelical Lutheran Church, 125 Henry Street, in Brooklyn Heights, which is where the annual meeting will be held this Sunday, Feb. 25 at 12:45 p.m., too late for this paper’s deadline.