Varick Readies New School, New Sanctuary & New Housing
by Allan Appel | Nov 12, 2012 12:33 pm
Posted to: Religion, Schools, Dixwell, News From The Pews
Amid foot-stomping gospel hymns and a stem-winder sermon on how not to be your own worst enemy at the precipice of the Promised Land, one of New Haven’s oldest black churches announced its newest initiative: creation of a new pre-K-4 independent school to be called Booker T. Washington Academy.
The announcement came during spirited Sunday morning services at Varick Memorial A.ME. Zion Church on Dixwell at Charles Street.
The church announced it has received a $7,500 planning grant from the Community Foundation of Greater New Haven and the William Caspar Graustein Foundation to launch the academy.
The announcement was made during the church’s annual “Deaconess Day.”
Besides pastors, the only other officials fully consecrated in the African Episcopal Methodist church are the deaconesses, said Varick Rev. Eldren D. Morrison.
At 11:30 on Sunday, as he semonized on the state of mind of the Israelites as they approached the Promised Land, he presided over a full house of some 300 swaying, singing, testifying worshippers.
The included in the front three rows 16 women in dazzling white dresses and hats that would be the envy of any Easter parader.
These were the deaconesses. Their responsibilities and good works include raising money for the altar linens and other ceremonial aspects of church life.
They very much also approve of the Booker T. Washington Academy, said Deaconess Geraldine Poole, a retired teacher who spent more than 20 years at schools like East Rock Magnet and Troup.
She’s also the church historian. She said that formally the group is called the Lucille Carlswell Deaconess Board; it was established in the late 19th century.
BTW Academy, as the church press release calls it, will be an outgrowth of an after-school enrichment program that Morrison initiated at the church in 2007. (Click here for a story on that program.)
Washington was first president of Tuskeegee Institute. An early national African-American leader leader, he hailed the importance of practical education and entrepreneurship. He gave his last public lecture at Varick in 1915; the church then was already 100 years old.
A member of the BTW committee, Chaka Felder-McEntire, said plans remain preliminary. At this point planners expect the school to be independent with an emphasis on Washington-inspired values: citizenship, independence, giving back, and globalization.
Rev. Morrison (pictured) said the school could also possibly be a Christian school.
No “Grasshopper” Mentality
The new school is part of larger plans for the church. Those plans fit into the sermon Morrison preached Sunday on the story of Moses’ 12 reconnoiters—or “spies”—sent from the wilderness to check out the Promised Land.
Morrison’s message: Only two of the 12 spies, Joshua and Caleb, remembered who they were, their true values. They were therefore immune from the quaking fear that consumed other ten, who in reporting back to the Israelites said they were like “grasshoppers” compared to the giant warriors the ten reported they would face in conquering Canaan. Joshua and Caleb had confidence and faith they the Israelites could conquer Canaan.
The implication to parishioners: Don’t fear! Give, plan, organize.
“It’s crunch time for New Haven and Dixwell,” Morrison said in his rousing remarks.
In addition to the new school, Varich plans to expand up the Dixwell block from Charles to Henry to create a new modern sanctuary, housing and, and light retail business, according to Morrison.
The 11:30 a.m. church service was one of three over which Morrison presided, with another full house at 7:30 and another at 9:30.
Just as the after-school program outgrew its space, so has the sanctuary.
The historic building will be renovated and preserved as part of the larger plan. Morrison said he envisions a new sanctuary, not a “mega-church,” but one with modern screens and facilities that could hold 800 to 1,000. The sanctuary would be part of a housing and retail complex, with classrooms and training areas in the Booker T. Washington spirit, to serve people not only on the Sabbath but every day of the week.
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