Neighbors, donors help restore 130-year-old church in Brooklyn

Built nearly 130 years ago, the Old First Reformed Church in Park Slope, Brooklyn, has stood the test of time.

"It's unique in that it has the longest history in the city of Brooklyn, 1654, founded by the Dutch government," Pastor Daniel Meeter said. "It's had many manifestations over the years. It's been in three different locations and moved to this location in 1891."

But in 2011, the ceiling of the historic Protestant church came crumbling down after plaster started to crack. Fortunately, no one got hurt, but spirits were crushed.

"There was a while of not knowing what we should do," parishioner Jenn Cribbs said. "Really whether or not we should even stay in the building."

So neighbors and generous donors stepped in.

In fact, a synagogue down the block, Congregation Beth Elohim, was the first to donate. It was a true testament to the impact the church has had on the neighborhood.

The church brought a sense of purpose to Pete Redell's life. He and his family have been members of the church since the 1990s.

"We're involved with helping the homeless, we're involved with the arts," Redell said. "So all those things together make it a great place to come and be a part of my life."

The church-goers have been meeting in a Sunday school room since 2011.

After years of restoring the ceiling, the sanctuary just reopened for Easter services last month.

"The vaulted ceiling has been fully restored, repainted, plastered, re-anchored, cleaned," Pastor Meeter said. "All the highlights brought back that were lost to grime and dust."

Now that the first phase is complete, still more work needs to be done, including the restoration of the chandelier, stained-glass windows, and organ. The entire project is expected to be completed in 2027 and will cost about $10 million.

"Another 130 years for this building plus that, more than that, I think this city needs public spaces where everybody is welcomed," Pastor Meeter said.

Old First Reformed Church | 729 Carroll Street, Brooklyn, N.Y. 11215 | 718-638-8300 |