Sweet charity: Faithful flock to help crumbling church

No Hail Marys — just hailing plaster
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

The faithful at Park Slope’s Old First Reformed Church have started donating money to fix the building’s crumbling sanctuary — which was closed for Christmas amid fears that huge hunks of plaster would rain down on congregants — but the church hasn’t even asked for help yet!

Pastor Daniel Meeter hoped that a fundraising drive in the spring would raise enough money for ceiling repairs, but donations are already pouring in from congregants who want to see the Seventh Avenue landmark’s sanctuary reopened as quickly as possible.

“We haven’t even started and people are already sending us money,” Meeter said. “Someone just left an anonymous $3,000 donation.”

The overwhelming response came after Meter closed off the 1,100 seat sanctuary to holiday services, thinking that sections of the 60-foot ceiling — some more than a foot long — would crumble apart, giving everyone a blue Christmas. Sunday services will be held in another room until the roof is repaired.

The sanctuary started falling apart in 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.

This year’s Christmas Eve service — which typically draw 400 congregants — was held in the Church’s second-floor Sunday school hall.

About half that attended Christmas services, but Meeter put a positive spin on the slimmed-down gathering.

“The service was very intimate,” Meeter said. “It was kind of wonderful.”

Congregants said they were prepared for a long renovation, but sorry the sanctuary was taken away from them.

“It was the timing that made it so difficult,” said Kyle Pope.

The Park Slope institution was built in 1891 and is known for its towering stone steeple, Tiffany stained glass windows, and bevy of community services and programs, including a men’s homeless shelter.

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