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During Lent, parishes focusing on refugee crisis through art

During Lent, parishes focusing on refugee crisis through art

Art, commissioned and invited, is telling the stories of resettled refugees at parishes in Brooklyn, N.Y. and Washington, D.C. Episcopal News Service reports on two Lenten projects, one at St. Ann and the Holy Trinity (NY):

“Facing America: Portraits of Refugees Resettling in the United States,” a photography exhibit on display at St. Ann and the Holy Trinity Episcopal Church in Brooklyn, tries to tackle the numbers and put faces on them.

Commissioned by the Forum at St. Ann’s, the 19 photographs feature a snapshot of refugees from all over the world who have made their way to the United States. These are refugees that have escaped political instability, persecution and violence.

“We see these large numbers of people crossing borders and we don’t get the whole picture – and we don’t think enough about who these people are and what their lives are about,” said the Rev. John Denaro, rector of St. Ann’s. Denaro put the exhibit together with parishioner Harry Weil. “[In the exhibit] we’re seeing these people face to face, not knowing their whole story, but beginning to appreciate that there isn’t just this mass of humanity but individual lives that are at stake. … It’s calling us to wonder about the fate of these people.”

The refugees photographed for the exhibit are from six different countries and now live in Connecticut, assisted by Episcopal Migration Ministries (EMM) affiliate Integrated Refugee and Immigrant Services.

The photographer, Hidemi Takagi, herself an immigrant from Japan, was interviewed by the Brooklyn Paper:

“I want people to understand they are regular people and we have to welcome them, because if you see their smile you see they’re no different from their neighbors,” said Hidemi Takagi, who lives in Bedford-Stuyvesant.

In D.C.:

At St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in the Capitol Hill section of Washington, D.C., the Rev. Michele Morgan, priest-in-charge, decided to move Lent beyond “giving up coffee and donuts; things we should give up anyway,” she said.

Focused on refugees, 40 dioramas – all made by parishioners of various artistic skill levels – have been placed on windowsills throughout the worship space, to be visual reminders of millions of refugees worldwide. Additionally, in keeping with a longstanding tradition at St. Mark’s, Morgan and the parish’s outreach board are providing a 20-page booklet that includes facts about refugees, Bible verses, meditations and prayers aimed at aiding parishioners to reflect on refugees and their plight. The daily Lenten practice also includes “giving prompts and a mite box.” Named for the biblical story of the widow’s mite, the boxes are to collect offerings for people around the world in need of support.

The booklets were inspired by EMM’s bulletin insert for Epiphany.

Photos from ENS.



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Paul Woodrum

Correction to above comments. There was not a merger of congregations, but St. Ann’s congregation moved into the Holy Trinity building, empty since 1957, in 1969 when their building was sold to Packer. The large parish house was emptied of tenants in 2013 due to serious deterioration of the building.
Moral: always check with spouse before commenting.

Paul Woodrum

Packer Collegiate Institute, a Brooklyn, NY, prep school bought St. Ann’s and its congregation was merged with Trinity’s, just a couple blocks away. The outside of the building is preserved and the inside has been converted to academic usage. The picture is the interior of the 1840’s Trinity Church now known as St. Ann and the Holy Trinity Episcopal Church.

Jay Croft

Is the photo that of the Brooklyn church?

Holy Trinity indeed was dissolved many years ago, according to the website. For a while it was used by the Church Army training center, and by a congregation of Deaf people once or twice a month, until the early 1970s. Later St. Ann’s moved into the building.

But before that it was used by a Hispanic congregation. They energetically cleaned, polished and spiffed up the dingy interior until it was a place of beauty and pride. Unfortunately the website doesn’t mention these facts at all.

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