Capital Campaign: Restoring the Future
The Father’s Heart Ministry Center has been a resource for the community from the time it was built in 1867. It was originally named the 11th Street Methodist Episcopal Chapel and it was built to reach out to the new immigrants flooding the area.
By the early 1900’s it had been renamed the People’s Home Church and Settlement and it offered the community a kindergarten, day nursery, fresh air program, gymnasium, baths, industrial classes, vocal and instrumental music instruction, a reading room, penny provident society and numerous clubs in addition to church services, Bible study and Sunday School.
Subsequent years introduced separate interdenominational services with Russian-language and Italian-language Presbyterians. Then in 1941 the church was purchased by the Russian Ukrainian Polish Pentecostal Church, eventually evolving to the Evangelical Christian Church and now The Father’s Heart Church. Once again, it is a center for community services as well as a church, providing for both practical and spiritual needs.
During the years when the Lower East Side (LES) and specifically, Alphabet City, was a haven for substance abusers and dealers, the middle-class congregation fled to the outer boroughs and New Jersey. With just the very needy in attendance, there were no resources to make the necessary repairs much less renovations and updating. The small denomination the church was affiliated with concentrated on supporting foreign missions and that left the church without any outside support for decades.
It is by the grace of God that it has remained open to once again host much-needed community resources and to continue to provide spiritual encouragement. However, it is time to “pay the bill” of decades of unintended neglect. We’ve known for some time that the northern extension of the church needed repairs especially when we saw a tree branch growing inside! Architects and engineers not only confirmed the dire condition of it but deemed it an emergency which meant demolition and rebuild. We are grateful to the engineers for coming up with a plan that prevented the demolition and is enabling us to repair it extensively.
As if that wasn’t enough, we learned the roof of an adjacent building (called the annex) and belonging to the church is continuously flooded and was also declared an emergency repair situation! The roof is no longer viable, allowing in rainwater but of greater concern is the children’s park behind the church, creating an attractive but dangerous situation for the climbers. Nothing seems to stop them from the challenge of climbing the park fence and hopping over and we don’t want them to fall through the roof!
The annex roof needs to be replaced and other work so that it can become our new food pantry with four times the space of our current one! An expanded food pantry will allow us to stock more food and provide space for another walk-in refrigerator or freezer, enabling us to reach and feed more people!