No Hail Marys — just hailing plaster

No Hail Marys — just hailing plaster
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

Talk about getting a message from above!

Christmas Eve services at the Old First Reformed Church in Park Slope will be celebrated in a cramped Sunday school hall tonight after a hail of plaster from the church ceiling forced Pastor Daniel Meeter to close the Seventh Avenue landmark’s 1,100-seat prayer space for repairs.

“It’s a blow,” Meeter said of the structural damage to the century-old house of worship. “We’re grieving for our sanctuary.”

Huge chunks of plaster — some more than a foot long — started falling from the sanctuary’s 60-foot ceiling onto its wooden pews at the end of September. Last month, a team of engineers determined that the entire ceiling needed to be repaired, Meeter said, adding that the congregation is still estimating how much the renovation will cost — and how long it will take.

The Park Slope institution was built in 1891 and is known for its towering stone steeple, Tiffany stained glass windows, and grand Christmas Eve service, which typically draws more than 400 congregants.

Meeter said this year’s Christmas Eve and Christmas Day services, which will be held in the church hall’s education wing would be limited to just 200 people and won’t feature music from the sanctuary’s pipe organ, which is out of commission along with the rest of the church’s main hall.

Elected officials urged neighbors to help support the Old First Reformed Church, which also hosts community meetings, arts performances and even a men’s homeless shelter.

“As the church has so often been there for the community, now we must work together [to raise funds for its repair],” Councilman Brad Lander (D–Park Slope) explained. “The Old First Reformed Church is a true treasure of our community.”

Church goers bracing for a long renovation said they’re upset about having the sanctuary taken away from them just days before Christmas.

“It was the timing that made it so difficult,” said Kyle Pope. “We’re really sad that we can’t use [the sanctuary] this year.”

Reach reporter Daniel Bush at [email protected] or by calling (718) 260-8310. Follow him at twitter.com/dan_bush

Pastor Daniel Meeter of Seventh Avenue’s Old First Reformed Church relocated his Christmas celebration after pieces of plaster began falling from the sanctuary ceiling.
Photo by Stefano Giovannini