Park Church Co-op (129 Russell Street), which defines itself as “a Lutheran ministry focused on radical love of the neighbor through welcome and invitation” recently received the devastating news they will be forced to cease church services by January 2022. This closure will also affect its status as a neighborhood gathering space and will end contracts with various local tenants by June 2022.
The Church is operated by the Metropolitan New York Synod, which is the regional branch of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America. The Synod owns Park Church Co-op’s building and informed the Church that they will be discontinuing their funding.
“We believe the Synod is making a mistake in choosing to shut us down, and should instead be partnering with us to build a more sustainable future for the ECLA branch of the Lutheran church as a whole,” said Mike Nowotarski, a church attendee, in an emailed statement to Greenpointers “We are a younger, energetic congregation and engaged in the community in ways that other houses of worship simply are not.” Nowotarski expressed his interest in the Synod transferring ownership of the building back to the church as they continue to take steps towards financial independence.
Nowotarski says that it’s about the third or fourth time in recent years that the Synod has attempted to close Park Church Co-op and that pushback from the Greenpoint community was key to restoring their funding.
Aside from hosting worship services, Park Church Co-op also functions as a community hub and arts space. The space frequently hosts concerts of all genres, arts festivals, children’s theater programs, and even served as a library annex while the Greenpoint branch of the library underwent renovations. During the winter months, the church partners with Breaking Ground to provide overnight shelter for homeless individuals in the neighborhood, which they say has drastically reduced exposure-related deaths in our community.
It’s this emphasis on community and acts of service that has drawn Greenpoint residents to the church, whether they attend or not. During the pandemic, attendee Allie Fitzgerald used space owned by the church to garden with her daughters, which ultimately led her to attending services.
Speaking with Greenpointers, she reflected on how her and family have benefitted by being a part of the church community. “My family – my daughters and my husband and me – because of COVID, we went to feed these gentlemen staying [at the church]. It was just us, cooking in the kitchen. It was kind of special…and it made such an impression on my daughters, like ‘Hey, we’re just gonna go cook chili for these guys!’ Something as simple as that, I think is so much what Park is about, simple acts that they do for the community, a small amount of people, but it makes such a big impact.”
A Change.com petition has been started to save the church, which you can sign here. Other ways you can show your support would be supporting the church financially on Withfriends and writing a letter/email to the Synod.