Historic Long Island City Church Gets Makeover

Tags: Currents Brooklyn, NY, Faith, Family, Inspiration, Media, Queens, NY

by Katie Vasquez

It’s a common sight for the hundreds of thousands who commute on the Long Island Expressway. St. Raphael’s Church rises above on Greenpoint Avenue.

Father Paul Kim aims to keep the historic charm but wants to make sure the church is around for another 130 years. The construction will do that. Work is well underway as the church already has new brickwork, roof, and two steeples. The pastor hopes the updated look may bring new worshippers from the community to the church.

“I’ve noticed that people, already while the construction was going on, that wanted to come in and pray and I think the construction will just increase that and evangelize the people knowing that there is a church here,” Father Kim said.

The church was founded in 1868 but construction wasn’t completed until 1881. The price tag to fix the exterior is close to $2 million, a large part raised by the 600 parishioners who attend.

“I say one of the hardest things about being a priest or a pastor is asking people for money, it’s not easy, but they have been very pleasant with me,” Father Kim said.

They also received a $20,000 grant from the New York Landmarks Conservancy. For a building to be eligible for the grant, it must serve the community at large, which St. Raphael does because it offers a food pantry that helps 700 people in the neighborhood and also has space that is used to teach ESL courses in an effort to serve immigrant communities in the surrounding neighborhoods.

“We find that most churches are serving at least 10 times their member numbers with cultural and community and social service and education programming,” Ann Friedman of the New York Landmarks Conservancy said.

Parishioners are excited by the updates to their historic church. Longtime parishioner and trustee Richard O’Connor said the improvements are not just cosmetic but significant to all who go to St. Raphael.

“The church belongs to all of us,” O’ Connor said. “We’re all pillars of the church. and all the people that went ahead of us, and all the people that are going to come after us. So we’re just a cog in the wheel and we’re trying to keep it going for the future.”

The scaffolding should come down by the end of September and they expect all the exterior work to be done by then. The next major project will be completing the interior of the church.