The Church of Gethsemane provides programs for our worshipping community, men and women returning home from prisons and jails, persons who are presently incarcerated, and children and adults in our neighborhood. We nurture and empower one another through a shared ministry that focuses on right relationship with God, one another, and the world.
Sunday School Class from 10:00am to 10:45am
Sunday School is a religious education program that meets every Sunday morning at 10 AM. It is an intergenerational class led by the pastor and is usually based on the lectionary readings for the day. Separate age-appropriate classes will be created for children as the need arises.
Adult education programs include a Leadership Development Program for newly elected Deacons and Elders and those interested in being lay leaders, Church Membership Classes (including a 7 Part Correspondence Membership Course to Project Connect Members in prison), Bible Study classes, an Advent and Lenten Series, and the use of Standing in The Need of Prayer: Devotions for Christians in Prison. Church retreats and special programs are also offered.
New Members Classes are offered 3 times are year. The next New Member’s Classes are held on the 1st and 3rd Sundays following worship, or on an individual basis upon request.
Programs for Children and Youth
Sunday School Lessons are available for children and youth who attend worship services. An intergenerational class is offered every Sunday from 10 AM to 10:45 AM before the worship service. The children and youth of Gethsemane are encouraged to be full participants in our worship service, including communion.
Confirmation classes are offered for youth who want to become members of our congregation. Retreats and camp programs are provided for all children and youth who wish to attend The Presbyterian Camp at Holmes.
Youth serve as volunteers in the church and are given an opportunity to create programs and projects that benefit the congregation and reflect their individual faith journeys.
Project Connect is an outreach program with and for persons who are incarcerated. Presently, there are over 96 men and women in our program. The Director of Project Connect is our Minister of Evangelism, Mr. Chibueze Okorie.
Project Connect is a successful, 20-year-old program of The Church of Gethsemane that connects men and women who are incarcerated to the Church of Gethsemane while they were still inside the prison system. Project Connect uses a highly effective, four-pronged approach to join in ministry with people who are incarcerated and then helps in the transition back into the home and the community upon release. Click here for a map of the New York State Department of Correctional Services Facilities Map.
First, it engages in ministry with and for incarcerated men and women through letters, visits’ care packages, contacts with family members, and letters of assurance to parole boards. Second, it provides participation in a faith community outside prison walls through church membership at The Church of Gethsemane (PCUSA) through a 7 Part Correspondence Membership Course. We become the family that many have lost. Third, it provides direct services upon release helping people with basic needs such as clothing, food, Metrocards and emergency funds. Fourth, Project Connect provides a re-entry program that includes referrals to social service agencies for specific needs, such as job training and vocational services and health services, spiritual counsel, and a re-entry peer support group that meets twice a month.
Upon release, Project Connect members are welcomed into the Church of Gethsemane church family as Active Members as soon as they begin worshipping with us. Many persons receive assistance in finding referrals for housing, job training, social services and programs that are of help during this transition period. The Church of Gethsemane collaborates with other community organizations and churches that provide re-entry support.
Re-Entry Peer Support Group
The Re-Entry Peer Support group is open to all men and women who have been incarcerated. Group members do not have to be members of The Church of Gethsemane. The group recently meets at the church on the 2nd and 4th Sundays or the month at 12:15 PM, following our worship service.
The Re-Entry Peer Support Group meets regularly to discuss transition issues and other concerns in their lives. Everything that is discussed is kept confidential. Topics range from employment to relationship building. Participants are encouraged to share their joys and struggles, and to learn from each others experiences. Together group members become involved in problem solving and networking, and provide feedback and support for each other.
A light meal and roundtrip transit fare is provided for each participant to cover transportation costs. Members of the group take turns facilitating the meeting. A small stipend is provided to the facilitator.
The Food Pantry program serves church members in need, Project Connect members who are incarcerated, and neighborhood persons. Food is distributed to people in the congregation on the first Sunday of the month.
The Caring Ministry provides special care to church members. At the Church of Gethsemane we are all ministers, sharing in leadership and providing support and care for one another. Members of the congregation share their stories of hope and transformation, and provide encouragement for each other.
Persons who are hungry are fed through our Food Pantry and our Sunday Lunch. Persons who need warm clothing are provided with hats, scarves, gloves, sweaters and coats when available. Persons who need resources such as housing, job training, and social services receive referrals for possible assistance. When someone is in the hospital, staff and members visit. When someone is struggling with a special need or is in crisis, we provide counsel, prayer, advocacy and the support of the community.
Session members and staff try to stay in touch with members regularly through the use of a phone tree. Rev. Liz Alexander and the Minister of Evangelism, Chibueze Okorie, also meet one on one with individuals to provide spiritual counsel and prayer.
Outreach and Advocacy
The Church of Gethsemane is committed not only to being a truly inclusive congregation, but also to bringing about justice and equity to all. We collaborate with other churches, community groups, and individuals to reform policies and laws in our present criminal justice system, government, and denomination. We seek to ultimately bring about systemic change that will eliminate all discrimination and injustice in the world as we live into the reality of God’s “kingdom” here on earth.
In the area of Criminal Justice, we have been a persistent voice in challenging unjust laws that discriminate against people of color and the poor. We collaborate with the Presbytery of New York City’s Council on Witness In Society and the World (See www.nycpresbytery.org), JusticeWorks Community (See www.justiceworks.org), The Correctional Association of New York, The Women’s Prison Association, The New York City Council of Churches and other groups to advocate for changes that include alternatives to incarceration, discretionary sentencing, parole reforms, and an end to capital punishment.
Rev. Alexander serves on the Board of JusticeWorks Community as an ex-oficio member, and members of The Church of Gethsemane are invited to serve on the Board.
The Church of Gethsemane joins with other churches and organizations in providing forums and educational programs on prison and re-entry issues and concerns, and hosts a program each year on the 2nd Sunday in February for Criminal Justice Sunday. We also speak at other churches and attend Lobby Day in Albany.
The Church of Gethsemane was the first church to become involved in the Mothers in Prison, Children in Crisis nationwide Campaign. Each Mother’s Day we continue to bring awareness to the public about the many women in prisons and jails throughout our country who have children and the effects of incarceration on their children’s lives. We have a special Mother’s in Prison, Children in Crisis Mother’s Day Service at our church and we hand out origami flowers to all who attend the service and to people who walk by to remind everyone not to forget the many mothers who are incarcerated and their children.
We advocate for all persons who are poor and marginalized, including persons who are homeless, jobless, without adequate health care, and unable to receive a good education. Persons who are incarcerated, and their families, in our society and are among the poorest of the poor.
We seek to end discrimination against all persons because of their race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, physical ability, age, educational background, or history of incarceration. At the Church of Gethsemane we believe in the basic God given human rights for all, and that each and every person must be treated with dignity and respect.
Weddings may be arranged directly through Rev. Diane Lacey by calling 718-499-6704 ex. 202.
If you are not a member of the church there is a separate rental fee for the sanctuary and the social hall, as well as the fee for the pastor’s services.