Brooklyn church celebrates 132nd anniversary

Rev. Jackson, left, his wife Kim, Congresswoman Clarke and Rev. Dr. Ian Straker.
Darlene Pantophlet

Parishioners worshipped online and in-person, as Fenimore Street United Methodist Church (FUMC) in Brooklyn on Oct. 24 celebrated its 132nd anniversary with much fanfare during its Sunday Worship Service.

“The 132nd Anniversary Service for Fenimore Street United Methodist Church opened with the bold hymn, ‘Rejoice Ye Pure in Heart’”, Shanae Als – a Barbadian American member of the church, at the corner of Fenimore Steet and Rogers Avenue in Brooklyn, and secretary of the church’s United Methodist Women (UMW) – told Caribbean Life.

“With attendance available both in person and online, the in-person worship experience was dynamic, heartfelt, and was remnant of the pre-COVID worship services,” added the former UMW president.

“The church sanctuary was well attended (132 parishioners), and the theme, ‘His Amazing Grace’, was appropriate for the celebratory occasion and a necessary sentiment, as we deal with the effects of a pandemic and moving back to a new state of normalcy,” Als continued.

The Worship Service – organized by the church’s Anniversary Committee, headed by Trinidadian retired registered nurse Marlene Ferguson – featured, among other things, lofty singing, drumming, liturgical dancing and speeches.

Brooklyn Democratic Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke and the Rev. Dr. Ian Straker – the daughter and son of Jamaican immigrants, respectively, who were raised in the community – were in attendance and addressed the celebration.

In his sermon, entitled “Enduring Grace,” the Rev. Roger Jackson, who recently took over the pastorship of the church, said that “enduring grace provides for and will sustain ministries,” according to Als.

“If it was not for grace, we would not survive what we are going through,” said Rev. Jackson, an African American, who succeeded another African American, the Rev. Dr. Maxine Nixon, who served FUMC for 19 years. Rev. Nixon, FUMC’s first female pastor, retired in June.

“No matter the struggle, nothing should be able to shake the firm foundation on which we stand,” added Rev. Jackson, who, prior to coming to FUMC, served St. Paul’s United Methodist Church of Vanderveer Park; St. James United Methodist Church in Lynbrook, NY; First United Methodist Church of Hollis, Queens; and First Roosevelt United Methodist Church. He also served as a volunteer preacher for Sunday Services at the Far Rockaway Mission Center.

“We live in the assurance of God’s grace,” Rev. Jackson preached. “We can struggle with God over how we feel about what is going on in our bodies and lives; struggles draw us closer to God. Grace becomes amazing when we, as disciples, come to realization that we are not in control.

“Surrender our will, and His grace will be sufficient for us,” Rev. Jackson urged worshippers. “Grace is our spirits’ longing to be made whole. Had it not been for the Lord on our side, we would not be a vibrant community of faith today.

“God kept and is keeping us,” he affirmed. “For God knows us by name and knows who we are as a community of faith. Fenimorians are unapologetic about the amazing grace of God.    Enduring Grace is what keeps, will sustain, and will help us to be a vibrant in this community, if we simply remain humble. God’s grace is sufficient.”

Rev. Straker, according to Als, said it was a “blessing to be home,” stating that his Jamaican family moved to the adjacent Rutland Road, when he was six years old.

He said he attended Sunday School and was confirmed at FUMC.

“One hundred and thirty-two years ago, this part of Brooklyn was farmland,” Dr. Straker said. “We are still here, even through changes in the neighborhood, by remaining true to the gospel and remaining open to the people in the neighborhood.

“If we continue to serve as Lord, as we know we are called to serve, we know that God will be with us on the rest of the journey,” he added.

According to FUMC’s history, on Aug. 3, 1889, the Fenimore Street United Methodist Episcopal Church of Flatbush was “organized out of the first Methodist Episcopal Church, Lenox Road and Flatbush Avenues, and was incorporated on Aug 20, 1889.”

The church was formally admitted to the New York East Conference in April, 1890 and dedicated in May 1890, with the Rev. James L. Hall, (1890 – 1894) being the first pastor.

In 1968, the Rev. William J. Smartt began his pastorate as the first Black minister, FUMC said.

It said many new programs were introduced, some of which included the annual silent supper; singles ministry for young adults and youth; summer camp and summer youth tutoring; health and welfare; heritage and higher education; revival and evangelism; senior center; and drama and creative writing.

FUMC said the late Guyanese-born pastor the Rev. Dr. Ivan J. Roberts (1994 – 2002) “brought more growth, physically to the church building and spiritually to the congregation,” guiding the first “Rally of the Nations”.

Dr. Nixon, who served from 2002 – 2021, “initiated many new ministries and Disciple Bible Study, and presided over the second successful “Rally of the Nations”, with the proceeds embarked for renovation of the Fellowship Hall and kitchen, said FUMC in chronicling its history.

“The various cultures of the church and community are reflected in our congregation,” said FUMC, whose members comprise, among others, Jamaicans, Vincentians, Trinidadians, Barbadians, Guyanese, Belizeans, Grenadians and Americans.

“As you can see, our church has been a vibrant force in this community for 132 years,” it added. “Without these histories, total support of both the United Methodist Men and United Methodist Women, and our congregation at large, this cultural community and spiritual history would not be possible.

“Thanks be to God for His blessings to us as a people and a church,” FUMC continued. “We continue pressing forward in faith and trusting in God alone. We thank God for our lay leadership, trustees and all our committed members. We endeavor to continue evangelizing and serving our community.”

After the celebration, Rev. Jackson told Caribbean Life in a statement that “it was, indeed, a joy to have participated in the 132nd anniversary” commemoration.

“By all indications, Fenimorians have proven to be gracious and spirit-filled body of believers,” he said. “As we journey together in this season of the life of the church and in the community, may we always remember that the enduring grace of God, manifested in the saving love of our Lord Jesus Christ, is with us by way of the in-dwelling presence of the Holy Spirit.

“Our doors are open, our hearts are open, and God has and will continue to be at work in us and through us, as we diligently pursue leaving an indelible footprint in serving our community,” added Rev. Jackson, quoting the Apostle Paul in Philippians 1:6: “Being confident of this that He who has begun a good work in you (community) will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”