Sunday, January 25, 2009

This Sunday's Message

Storefront churches are some of the most varied and vibrant institutions in Brooklyn, and this one, Tabernacle of God's Glory Church on the corner of Dean and Franklin, is no exception. I haven't attended a service, but the sanctuary hidden beneath the shutters in the photo is bright and lively, and the pastor brings a jolt of scripture to Franklin Avenue every Sunday with his faux-wood-paneled Pontiac station wagon, covered with verses and calls to prayer on white plates (I have a feeling he never gets rear-ended). 

I've written on this topic twice before, and I never miss a chance to post a link to one of my favorite Brooklyn-related photo albums. There's a long tradition of storefront worship in major cities in the United States (here's a great photo from 1940s Chicago), one that's been well-documented by academics and a PBS miniseries. Their origin is simple: newly-arrived pastors, whether African-Americans during the first and second Great Migrations or immigrants of all races and faiths throughout the last two centuries, call their congregations together in readily-available spaces at the commercial hearts of their communities. Sometimes in contact with extant institutions back home, these places of worship often grow out of their storefronts as their parishoners gain a foothold. A great example of this trend is the history of the Bethlehem Lutheran Church in Bay Ridge. Founded by German immigrants in a grocer's shop 1905, the church is currently housed in a stately stone building, and is now in its 104th year. 

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