Who We Are
We are welcoming, diverse and inclusive. We are a unique intentional congregation of persons from all racial, ethnic, economic and educational backgrounds, “founded in 1986 as a New Church Development and established as a church in 1989, The Church of Gethsemane is a congregation of The Presbyterian Church (USA) created by and for incarcerated persons, formerly incarcerated persons, their families, neighborhood persons, and people who feel called into ministry with the poor.”
The Church of Gethsemane is a More Light Presbyterian Church and a member of New York City’s Presbyterian Welcome. Gay men, lesbians, bisexual and transgender persons are welcome in our church. All members of our church have an equal opportunity to serve as ordained leaders in our congregation.
Founded in 1986 as a fellowship and established as a church in 1989, The Church of Gethsemane is a congregation of The Presbyterian Church (USA) created by and for incarcerated persons, formerly incarcerated persons, their families, neighborhood persons, and people who feel called into ministry with the poor. In solidarity, we seek justice for our world and the empowerment of the Christian gospel in our lives. We thrive on our diversity and value our inclusiveness. No one is turned away. All are welcome. We strive to create a spiritual community that comforts and challenges, struggles and sustains, heals and liberates. We value people for who they are, which frees us to struggle for who we—and the world—might become.
On April 30th, 1989 the Presbytery of New York City celebrated the organization of The Church of Gethsemane in their new space at Park Slope, Brooklyn’s former Prospect Heights Presbyterian Church on 1012 Eighth Ave.
The invitation to this event stated that “The Church of Gethsemane is being constituted as an intentional congregation of neighborhood persons, prisoners, ex-offenders and their families, and people in solidarity with the poor and the imprisoned. Together, we seek the empowerment of the Christian gospel to heal our lives and bring justice to our world.”
The Rev. Dr. Constance M. Baugh, the founding pastor, was also installed at this event. At that time, she had already been a leader in the field of criminal justice for almost twenty years. She was the first woman to organize a PCUSA church in New York City.
The Church of Gethsemane grew out of Rev. Baugh’s criminal justice ministry at the Women’s Correctional Institutions at Rikers Island in New York City. In 1978 she founded Citizen Advocates for Justice, Inc. (CAFJ)--- a direct service organization which evolved into JusticeWorks Community under the leadership of Mary-Elizabeth Fitzgerald.
In the course of Rev. Baugh’s criminal justice ministry, incarcerated persons, formerly incarcerated persons and their families often called upon her for baptisms, funerals, marriages, and communion services. Many people did not feel welcomed in churches when they came home from prison or jail.
To respond to a need for a safe welcoming faith community, Rev. Baugh organized a small group of formerly incarcerated persons and members of their families as a worshipping fellowship. The group first worshipped at Mount Morris Presbyterian Church and then moved to the Chapel of the First Presbyterian Church in the City of NY on Fifth Avenue and 12th Street in 1985. Later that year, the Presbytery of NYC approved the Fellowship as The Church of Gethsemane. In January 1986, the Presbytery, Synod, and General Assembly approved the church as a new church development project, and granted us $50,000 a year for the next three years.
Rev. Baugh described our new church this way: “Gethsemane provides an opportunity for the voiceless to find their voices, the breaking of silence, and solidarity instead of charity. Persons who have been disinherited and disempowered by the world have moved from the margins to the center of religious life where their life experience is valued and their stories are heard. Persons who have been engulfed in a culture of silence are breaking that silence and speaking out. Persons are in community rather than being objects of charity outside the church walls.”
In 1991, by unanimous vote of the Session and approval by the congregation, The Church of Gethsemane became a More Light Presbyterian Church joining in the work for full participation of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people of faith in the life, ministry and witness of the Presbyterian Church (USA). (For more information about More Light Presbyterians go to www.mlp.org)
Rev. Baugh retired from her ministry at The Church of Gethsemane in 1997, after a serious illness. Rev. Phyllis Zoon briefly served as Stated Supply Pastor for one year.
In 2001, Rev. Elizabeth (Liz) Alexander came to the Church of Gethsemane after serving as Associate Pastor, Director of Children and Family Ministries at The Riverside Church, NYC, and years of experience in education and social justice advocacy. She continues to serve as our pastor today.
The staff of The Church of Gethsemane work together in team ministry with the Session and church members to continue to live out the unique mission of the church with faith and hope for a greater future for all.
Rev. Diane Lacey is the fourth pastor of the Church of Gethsemane. She came here in December of 2010, following more than ten years of pastoral leadership at the Good Shepherd-Faith Presbyterian Church in Manhattan. Prior to answering God’s call to ministry she was committed to working for social justice and community empowerment. She worked for many years as a community organizer in the South Bronx, as an assistant to former Mayor John Lindsay, as a radio broadcaster, and in several high and low level positions in the New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation.
Her spiritual journey led her to study and graduate from the New York Theological Seminary. She wanted to be ordained at the Riverside Church and to be a member of the Presbytery of New York City, where she learned about the Church of Gethsemane. As chairperson of the Presbytery’s Council on Witness to Society and the World she and the members of the Counsel were able to support the mission of the Church of Gethsemane thru funding and informational conferences.
May God continue to bless and expand this ministry begun by the Dr. Rev. Connie Baugh.
Church Leaders & Staff
All the People
Rev. Diane Lacey
Director of Community Life
Minister of Evangelism
Director of Project Connect
Elder Chibueze Okorie
Director of Music
Shirley Jones, Clerk of Session
Nathaniel Wright, Treasurer
Office Space Rental
We have an office space available for $1000.00 per month. Please call Victoria at 718-499-6704, ex. 202.
Food Donations are needed for Sunday Thanksgiving Dinner on November 22nd. Please call Victoria at 718-499-6704, ex. 202.
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