The First Estate: December 21, 2011

News and Trends From Brooklyn’s Houses of Worship

Francesca Norsen Tate, editor

Services for Christmas And New Year

St. John’s Episcopal/Anglican Church in Park Slope begins the season of Christmas with a Traditional Solemn High Mass of the Nativity with Procession of the Christ Child and Blessing of the Crèche. This Christmas Eve Service begins at 11 p.m. with Traditional Carols from 10:30 to 11. Service music includes the Mass in F by Giovanni Francesco Anerio; works by Balbastre, Ives and Handel and anthems by Palestrina and Tye.

St. John’s Church will also usher in the New Year prayerfully, with a service for the Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus (traditionally observed eight days after Christmas, on January 1). This will be a Meditational Service. An Add-a-Dish dinner follows the liturgy. Mass will also be offered on New Year’s Day, also celebrating Feast of the Holy Name, at 11 a.m. The parish will mark Epiphany Sunday on the subsequent week, January 8, with Procession of the Three Kings, a Children’s Christmas Party and an Open House at the Rectory. The church is at 139 St. John’s Place.

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The Cobble Hill Consort, a joint ensemble of the Christ Church Choir and the Canoni Chorale, both under the direction of Donald Barnum, will sing Evensong at Christ Church, Cobble Hill at 4 p.m. on New Year’s Day. Unlike recent evensongs, which highlighted polyphonic settings of the canticles and anthems, this service will feature simple plainsong settings.

Following the service, all are invited to the Christ Church Rectory for the Rector’s Annual New Year’s Day Open House and a New Year’s Masque.

The masque was a form of festive courtly entertainment which flourished in 16th and early 17th century Europe. A masque involved music and dancing, singing and acting. Professional actors and musicians were hired for the speaking and singing parts. Of all the arts of the Renaissance and Baroque periods, the masque is the artistic form most alien to audiences today. The most outstanding humanists, poets and artists of the day, in the full intensity of their creative powers, devoted themselves to producing masques; and until the Puritans closed the English theatres in 1642, the masque was the highest art form in England. However, not much documentation remains, and much of what is said about the production and enjoyment of masques is still part speculation. The Cobble Hill Consort will present the musical and dramatic aspects of a masque, and of course a fully-laden board of holiday food and drink!

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Christmas and Chanukah Service Projects

The Maronite Youth Organization (MYO) at Our Lady of Lebanon Cathedral in Brooklyn Heights, spread cheer to the residents of the Cobble Hill Health Center. Fifteen MYO members, along with their moderator, Therese Abi Habib and chaperones, Anthony Hoyawek and Sarya Abi Habib, prepared for the visit by gathering small gifts and parcels of cookies for distribution to the residents. They were very well received and an air of anticipation awaited them. A lovely lady even remarked that she had had her hair and nails done for the occasion and another smilingly told the group that they had made her day. The sight of the youth prompted one gentleman to reminisce about his nieces and nephews.

The MYO visited all three floors of the facility, caroling along the way, with one member playing saxophone and distributing their goodies. It was a wonderful day for the disabled to be remembered and a fulfilling day for our Maronite youth to experience the joy they gave to many who are so isolated. The lesson of “the least you do to my brethren, you do also unto me” was a lesson in reality for these youngsters. It is an experience they will repeat on a monthly basis.

Submitted by Salma T. Vahdat

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Congregation Mount Sinai Hebrew School held its Annual Toy Drive to benefit the Brooklyn Developmental Center….The Youth Group at Grace Church-Brooklyn Heights on Sunday wrapped dozens of gifts for the women and children served at Christian Help in Park Slope (CHIPS), whose soup kitchen is now operational following damage repair from a fire in September. The youth group also coordinated with the parish Knitting Ministry, and wrapped hand-made hats that will be given to guests at the Brooklyn Heights Interfaith Homeless Shelter this week…The Knitting Bee at St. Ann & the Holy Trinity Church met earlier this month to create hand-made hats and scarves for the Seamen’s Church Institute and other local charities.

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Speaker Will Address Changes in Israel’s Jewish-Muslim Relations

The Brotherhood at Progressive Temple Beth Ahavath Sholom welcomes Milton Pincus to speak on the changing relationship between Israel’s Jewish population and its Muslim neighbors. The program, on Sunday, January 8 at 10 a.m., begins with complimentary breakfast. Readers wishing to attend may contact the temple office at 718-436-5082 or visit for details on this and our other activities. The temple is at 15th Ave. and 46th St. in Borough Park.

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World at Large Brooklyn Rabbi Wins Right to Keep Beard as Military Chaplain

A Brooklyn Orthodox rabbi who challenged the US Army’s rule against beards won his fight, and was sworn in as a military chaplain earlier this month, according to an Associated Press report published in the Washington Post. Rabbi Menachem Stern of Brooklyn was officially admitted to the chaplaincy in a ceremony at The Shul Jewish Community Center in Surfside, Fla. Stern is a member of the Chabad Lubavitch movement of Judaism, whose rabbis are prohibited from shaving their beards.

Some Orthodox Jews don’t shave, based on the commandments given in Leviticus, the third book of the Torah: “Do not clip your hair at the temples, nor trim the edges of your beard.”

Rabbi Stern, who has a wide experience in hospital and prison chaplaincy work, wanted to be a military chaplain. The military’s rules on being clean-shaven conflicted with his adherence to the Torah law. He and the Army reached a settlement by which his beard would be exempt from the rule, which would still stand.

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Questions? Comments? Sound off to the Editor


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