Since it opened its doors in 2015, the Park Church co-op has been a unique space for both community gathering and worship in Greenpoint. Pastor Amy Kienzie describes the church as “more a new start ministry than a traditional Lutheran Church,” and that non-traditional approach has helped make the Park Church Co-op a welcome and beloved fixture in the neighborhood. The Co-op is well known for opening its doors to non-religious community events such as farmer’s markets, concerts, No Lights No Lycra dances, Drag Queen story hours and even a pop-up library.
Recently, it looked like Greenpoint was going to lose this vital and welcoming space. Pastor Amy’s last sermon was set for April 15th, as the Lutheran Church in American declined to continue grant funding the ministry at the Park Church Co-op. In reaching their decision, the Bishop’s office maintained that the Park Church Co-op didn’t have a large enough membership to warrant continued funding.
While the current congregation is small, 12-15 people on any given Sunday (with 40 people at Thursday Compline services, and growing to at least a hundred people at Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve), it is deeply connected to the space and to the community. Member Suzanne Green explains, “we’re vey candid and open here.” That inclusivity attracted her to the Park Church Co-op. She comes all the way from Fort Greene to be involved because she appreciates Pastor Amy’s non-traditional approach. “When you’re actually involved,” she says, “the message is so much closer to what’s actually happening in your own life.” And that involvement extends to the community, and into McGolrick Park in particular. Partitioner Lana Bliss, from Sunnyside, says, “There’s nothing better than in the springtime walking over here and walking through the park. And the farmer’s markets out there, it’s just beautiful.”
The passion of Park Church partitioners seems to have moved the Bishop’s office to grant a reprieve! Pastor Amy told us on March 19th that that the congregation will have a 9 month probationary period with funding to try and grow in funding and worship numbers! In that time, the congregation on Russell Street will try to make its unique approach to spirituality a sustainable part of the community that will hopefully have a home in Greenpoint for years to come.
When it comes to funding and sustainability, Pastor Amy says, “it’s hard, because our ministry doesn’t fit inside the box. It doesn’t fit inside what’s recognized, so sometimes the [Bishop’s Office’s] assessment tools doesn’t always match what goes on on the ground.” Not only that, she says, “our success can’t necessarily be measured by people coming on a Sunday.” For example, “Idle Tales” the upcoming art show for prayer is “worshipful,” but the people attending won’t necessarily be reflected in Sunday worship numbers. So, it’s hard to measure, “who’s getting something out of this ministry?”
Happily, at this point, the Bishop’s office has concluded that enough people are moved by the message of the Park Church Co-op that it has granted the congregation further funding. Now in its third year, the Park Church C0-op is glad to have more time to build the relationships it needs to sustain itself, and to build a plan for how it will move forward. When it comes to moving forward, funding is a major piece of the puzzle. The Church’s annual budget is $200,000. The church itself took in $80,000 last year, and funding from the Lutheran Church in America made up the rest. Going forward, the Park Church Co-op will need significant funds. If you’d like to contribute, you can donate here!