November 2, 2012, Friday, 306

Hebron SDA French-Speaking Church

From The Peopling of New York City

Jump to: navigation, search


About The Author

Welcome. My name is Sandra Beaubrun. I am an lower sophmore at Brooklyn College. I am a participant of the Macaulay Honors College, here at BC. I plan to double major in Political Science and English. I want to become an immigration rights lawyer six years from now simply because I want to help the people who have come to this country for a better life. Currently, I am in my second semester of college and am enrolled in a class called CHC2, the Peopling of New York City. In this class, our main assignment is to research a specific street or building in New York and become a historian. Our job is to not find all of our knowledge from the internet, but to do hard research, going to places such as the Brooklyn Public Library and the Municipal Archives. I chose a building that has been standing for several years that not many people know much about. Please, take a walk through my building.

Hebron Seventh- Day Adventist French-Speaking Church

The Research Proposal


I initially had several buildings and blocks in mind that I wanted to learn more about, however, after doing research, I narrowed my search down to two buildings. I first began to research an old school building located on Park Place and New York Avenue named Hebron Seventh Day Adventist Bilingual School. It was extremely hard because most of the people that could give me information about its history was dead. But I didn't give up mainly due to the fact that no one had attempted to find the history of the building before and it would make me proud to know that I was the first one who tried.

I made several attempts going to the Grand Army Plaza, the local library, the Municipal Archives, as well as the NYC Office of Registry, and the NYC Department of Buildings. I made small discoveries concerning the school building such as the image of how it looked in the early 1900s as well as the deed to the school and the violations/inspections that they had to deal with. After these discoveries, there wasn't much left to find, so I turned my attentions to the other building that I had in mind, the Hebron Seventh Day Adventist French-Speaking Church.

This church located on Dean Street and New York Avenue, just a few blocks away from the school, had a great wealth of information surrrounding it. With a historian that gave me a hand in the search for information about this building; I have posted together my narration of the Hebron SDA French-Speaking Church. Please, take a walk through my building.

Why Did I Choose This Building?

I was originally undecided on which street I wanted to choose. There were several buildings that I wanted to do research on. My first decision was to choose the Hebron Seventh Day Adventist French Speaking Adventist Church located on Dean Street and New York Avenue. My second choice was to research the Brower Park Library on St. Marks and Nostrand. I also had another choice of the Hebron SDA Bilingual School. I even had my mind made up on the Reformed Dutch Protestant Church on Church Avenue and Flatbush. But I decided to focus my research on the Hebron Seventh Day Adventist French-Speaking church because after weeks of spending time on a building that was leading me to dead ends, I chose to complete my research on the church instead.

I attended this church for my entire life simply because my parents went there themselves. The only thing I knew about this church was that it used to be a synagogue that was bought by Seventh Day Adventists in the late 1900s. I realized that I had never paid much attention to its history and that this project would help to open my eyes to a world of discoveries. As I would later find out, this building stood for hard work, determination, faith, and the connection between heritage, language, and religion.

As I paid closer attention, I began to see that many people who passed by the church were intrigued by the look of the church. This building takes nearly the entire block from New York to Nostrand. Truly, this project helped me to look back on Hebron's history and reminded me of all the hard work that immigrants went through in order to purchase a church that brought their religion, culture, and language together. This church created a family that would begin to spread to other parts of the world.

The Building Of 1256 Dean Street

The Hebron French Speaking SDA Church was originally known as the First Church of Christ Scientist. Designed by Henry Ives Cobb, a MIT and Harvard educated architect, the building was inspired by the Byzantine Revival and constructed in 1909. [1] It now serves as the district’s only representation of the Byzantine Revival style architecture. Located just on Dean Street and New York Avenue, the church was built during the time when the population of the neighborhood was increasing and various churches were emerging or expanding. The building is a symbol of the type of auditorium church that was popular close to the end of the 19th century. The building is characterized by its stain glass windows, one story pavilions and arcade facing Dean Street and New York Avenue,Corinthian columns, as well as limestone steps with the entryway, and so on. ‘‘The church was built under three sequential new building applications, all of which identify Henry Ives Cobb as the architect. The church is distinguished by it complicated massing, consisting of a paired of hip-roof entry pavilions flanking a curved arcade and by its broad, multi-side hipped roof topped by a bronze turret.[2]

The Origins of the Hebron SDA French-Speaking Church

(With the help of the historian in Hebron SDA Church, we pieced together quite a terrific story of how the church began, progressed, and the different faces that not only pioneered it but helped it flourish).

The building that now houses the members of Hebron SDA Chuch was orignally the First Church of Christ, Scientist in 1909. Once, the church was bought, the name Hebron was brought with them from the previous locations of where they had lived.

However, Hebron did not gain its church so easily. This task dealt with large efforts from the members of the church in order to help bring people of the same faith together. The history of this church is a long one that involved several people as well as locations that resulted in the present-day image of the church that you have seen above.

Initially, Hebron Seventh Day Adventist French-Speaking Church began on an August night, year 1956. There was a prayer meeting in the home of a woman named Sister Percide Valcourt at 570 St. Mark's Place. Paster Pierre-Louis was just passing through New York on a visit when he stopped at the prayer meeting and directed it with the encouragement of twelve to sixteen Haitian Adventists for two consecutive Saturdays who were in need of spirituality. On the following Sabbath after those two weeks, the Adventists met in the home of Kis and Anne Adrienne Lamour at 976 Prospect Place where they decided on a deacon,deaconess,treasurer,director/ress of Sabbath school, a secretary, as well as a condictor.

The congregation continued to worship in the home of Mr. and Mrs. Lamour until they were able to rent a storefront on 1435 Bedford Avenue with the funds collected from the members which made sacrifices each week to give a tithe or offering that would amount to $75 up to $100. They even named the church "Eglise d'expression Francaise" which translated in english means "Adventist Church of French Expression." This name was especially significant due to the fact that they were the first Haitian, French-Speaking, and Advenist church in New York.

Their work did not stop there. They had several challenges when it came to renovating and furnishing the entire building. Several people came together including Kis Lamour, Luc Appolon, Pierre Belhomme to address these challenges. Each member gave three chairs and $80 every month with the generous contribution of the landlord's monthly $20.00 in order to make the $100 rent each month.

Haitians in New York were spread out in American Churches depriving them of a sense of community and membership with people who were from the same culture. When the church was to join the Greater New York Conference, which was the sole federation for churches who were held in a foreign language, the Conference realized that these church members were black and recommended that they join the Northeastern Conference, which catered to churches in that region or a black federation.

The Northeastern Conference accepted Hebron and sent them an American pastor named Pastor Ashby simply because he was the only pastor that knew a few words of French. However, because he could not effectively communicate with his congregation, his stay there was shortlived. The growing population wanted their own place to worship instead of a storefront, so in 1965, they bought a building at 349 Eastern Parkway (now presently is owned by the Northeastern Conference for the Shiloh Seventh Day Adventist Church) for $120,000. Members contributed to $25,000, the Conference gave $10,000 to the church,and they were left raise $35,000 before they could get the church on February 15, 1965.

Left without a pastor that could speak French, it was not until ten years later that the Northeastern Conference delegated one of the founding members as the pastor, Pastor Rene Adrien. Unfortunately, when he began his ministry, his health began to decline and he died in March 1968. After his death, the conference elected an evangelist from Martinique named Pastor Matthew Bermingham to take over the church.

Where did Hebron get its name? Under Pastor Bermingham's leadership, the members of the congregation chose to change their name from "Eglise d'expression Francaise" to "Hebron" since they were no longer the only French-Speaking Seventh Day Adventist church in New York. THe name "Hebron" was chosen because it meant in the bible "City of Refuge."

The number of people attending the church continued to grow also bringing with it a security issue. The number of members coming to the weekly services were more than the building could hold. So, Pastor Bermingham suggested that the members who lived in East New York should go worship at Horeb SDA Church located on East 95 Street and that the members who lived in Queens should attend weekly services at Maranatha, a SDA church also located in Queens. However, the people loved their church too much that they would not leave as was recommended.

Instead, Pastor Bermingham was reminded of a church building that he passed by several times located on Dean Street and New York Avenue. He had wanted to buy it for his growing church. So, he made a bid on it of $250,000. However, another church which is ironically now located across from Hebron named the Union United Methodist Church also made a bid of $400,000. But since the owner had promised the building to Hebron, they now had a place to worship. With the sale of Hebron's church building for $150,000, $25,000 from the Conference, and a loan, Hebron Seventh Day Adventist French-Speaking Church now resided at 1256 Dean Street, a former synagogue for Jews.

During that time, Pastor Bermingham also played a central role in acquiring a building known as the Old Methodist Home, just a few blocks from Hebron SDA Church in order to promote Chrisitian education. The pastor felt that the church should also own a school in order to help the children in the Haitian churches as well as preserve the French language and provide them each with an Adventist education.

The Pioneers of the Hebron SDA French-Speaking Church

The hard work of these individuals helped to create the first Haitian French-Speaking SDA Church in New York.

La Famille Pierre Louis (It was his visit that made the few people who prayed together realize they needed a church.)

Justina Charles nee Lamadieu Percide Valcourt Luc Appolon Anne Adrienne Lamour(It was in her/husband's apartment that the Hebron Church was formed.)

Max Heriveaux Philomena Heriveaux Moravia Valcourt Suzie Valcourt The members of Hebron stand in front of the Church on Beford Avenue

Famille Pean Present-day picture of two of the founders of Hebron SDA Church. Luc Appolon and Kis Lamour (both now deceased).

Step 1: The Municipal Archives

Step 2: The Grand Army Plaza

I went to Grand Army Plaza: Brooklyn Public Library in order to do further research on my building. When entering, I immediately went to the Brooklyn Collections because I knew there was a possibility that I could find something about the building. However, when I went there, I mentioned to the librarian my building and how I was researching it for a project. She went to her indexes in order to look if there were any periodicals about my church. She couldn't find anything even when I mentioned to her that the church had undergone a name change. Nothing came up in the Brooklyn Eagle newspapers either. We checked both the names Hebron SDA Church and L'Eglise Expression de Francaise but nothing could be found for either. Even with this research block, I continued looking through a number of "Brooklyn" books in the hopes of finding even a small excerpt about Hebron. I didn't have such luck, however, the research librarian informed me that she would call me if anything turned up. I looked in the Brooklyn Eagle almanac under the listings for church and Seventh-Day Adventist, ironically I could not find Hebron's name there but I did see Hanson Place, which is another SDA church that was created from members of Hebron.

Step 3: The NYC Office of Registry

Step 4: The NYC Department of Buildings

Step 5: The Members of Hebron Speak

There were a select number of members from Hebron SDA Church chosen to discuss how they first heard about the church, when did they come to the church, and what changes do they see the church undergoing. Here's what they had to say.

Fr. Jolicoeur Charles:

This is one of the three oldest and original members still alive in Hebron Seventh Day Adventist French-Speaking Church. He stated that he was with Hebron when it was first on Park Place in the living room of Mr. and Mrs. Lamour. He was there when it moved to Bedford Avenue then to Eastern Parkway and finally when it settled on Dean Street. Hebron was where he met his future wife, Justina Charles (her photo has been posted above), where he held the burial service when she died, where he met his future wife, and held the baby dedication for his now two year old son.

Sr. Liliane Trofort:

She was twenty-two years old when she came to Hebron SDA Church. She is the second oldest member of Hebron. She was in Haiti for most of her life then she immigrated to Canada for three years then to the United States. As I continued to talk to her, I transcribed what she had discussed with me onto this wiki. In her own words, she said " I had lived in Manhattan than I moved to Brooklyn. Someone who was a member of Hebron invited me there because there wasn't even a French-Speaking Church at that time and any Haitian that came to New York had to go to an American church to worship. When I came to Hebron, it was originally located on Bedford Avenue. I used to go to the SDA Church on Saturday morning then when I came home, I would put on all of my jewelry and go to the club at night. On Sunday morning, I would go to Catholic mass and at night I would go to the movies with my friends. After I came from mass, I always felt like something was missing. So I came to Hebron in order to feel a sort of connection with people that were like me. I was there for the church's dedication which was beautiful. Hebron was the only French-Speaking SDA Church in New York. Hebron wasn't even named Hebron until the church moved to Eastern Parkway. I voted "yes" for the name "Hebron" to be given to the new church because we weren't the only French speaking SDA church anymore. Our name needed to be changed." "Hebron was where I got baptized, met my husband, and got married. When I first came to Hebron, I would walk from my house in Jefferson to Bedford Avenue, where the church laid. My first friends from this church were Sr. Nicole Cadet (died in 2007), Sr. Jean Jacques (bed-ridden), and Sr. Leone Toles (retired in Pennsylvania). We were all single at that time. Now that I think about it, Sr. Toles is also one of the other oldest members of Hebron Church. We all met our husbands from Hebron. I had a SDA friend who I would visit his house on certain Saturdays. My husband saw me there and wanted to talk to me. I told him to go somewhere when he tried talking to me. It took him one year for us to start dating. He was also an SDA but I didn't know it because I never saw him when i went to church. I found out later onthat he had grown up being an Adventist although it took him twenty two years after we had married to finally get baptized. He transferred his membership to Hebron to be closer to me. Our children grew up in this children, all three of them got baptized her, went to Pathfinders, sang in choir, they did everything. My youngest child is 39 years old, that tells you how old I am (laughs). I don't even know how many friends now in this church. Let's just say that I'm everyone's friend whether they're Christians or not. Everyone in my neighborhood knows me. This church is my home now. I was here when this building (1256 Dean Street) was dedicated and had its first service. It was beautiful. I've been here for a long time. My final church will be in Hebron. The church is not the Hebron that I remember, it used to be crowded but now its empty. Most of the members moved, died, or went to other churches. Hebron seems to be dying, the church seems to be dying. If they were to decide to sell the church, I don't know where I'd go. I'm not going back to someone's apartment. The church is ours. The mortgage is paid, we own it. I don't know"(sighs).

Sr. Bertha Heriveaux: Unfortunately, due to the fact that she takes care of her elderly mother and was unable to stay for the interview.

Fr. Antonio Auguste:

This man provided me with a great source of knowledge concerning my research. He gave me the photos from Hebron's archives and told me pieces of the church's history so I could piece together the story. His official title in the church is the Director of Sabbath School. However, Fr. Auguste, in my opinion is the historian of the church. He besides the original members of the church gave me facts that helped to open doors to my research. It is with his help that I am able to put the information that I have found about the church. Not only did he help me with this endeavour but he also told me about his experiences at Hebron Church in the early days. " One day a Haitian pastor and his family came to New York on a visit to pray with a group of about seventeen Haitians. However, these people realized that they needed a place to hold this worship. They met in Mr. Lamour's apartment only because he had the biggest apartment. Mr. Lamour would drive around since he was the only one with a car and would pick up Haitians that usually went to the American Churches. Some of the people didn't have enough money to afford transportation so this service was welcomed. I was seventeen years old when I came to Hebron Church. I lived right across from the church on Eastern Parkway. It was nice there, the Pastor then, Pastor Birmingham welcomed and loved the youth." "There are a lot of changes that have happened to Hebron Church. There used to be a lot of professionals. A lot of people left Hebron for a number of reasons. There are members all over the world, especially in Florida. There are a lot of Haitians that have gone back to American churches (Kingsborough SDA & Bethel SDA especially). Long time ago, it used to Bethel, Hanson Place, and Kingsborough SDA, but now a majority of them go to Kingsborough. Hebron is the mother of almost all of the SDA churches in North America. It was the first Haitian church in North America. This was the church that you went to if you were Haitian and had arrived in New York. " "One of the biggest things that Hebron is known for is their organ. There was a whole organ built behind the podium in the actual infrastructure of the church. It goes up three stories high and reaches the roof. Behind the pipes are speakers but the organ hadn't been used for so long that it just stayed there. Now it is almost impossible to repair because some of the parts aren't made anymore. (laughs). This makes Hebron just more unique in more ways than one."

Fr. Frantz Polycarpe:

He has held the title for several years of being the Treasurer for the Hebron Church. He personally told me that he came to the church when he was sixteen years old. When immigrants came from Haiti to New York, Hebron SDA was the church to go to. If you were Haitian and you came to Brooklyn, somehow you would eventually end up at Hebron most likely by word of mouth. Polycarpe stated that most Haitians used to live in Harlem and would come to Brooklyn to attend Hebron. Eastern Parkway was all white and East New York at that time was full of Whites and Italians. Haitians had to fight against segregation and needed a place of their own to worship. They needed a place that brought their faith and their culture together. Hebron SDA Church was that place.

Fr. Gilbert Vilffranc:

Fr. Vilffranc holds a number of positions in the Hebron SDA Church,one of them being the Counselor for Communications. However, at the age of twenty, he had just came from Haiti to New York and heard about the Hebron SDA Church. At the time there were no Haitian French-Speaking Churches, Vilffranc states. "Haitians felt a need to find a way to preserve their culture. Hebron on Eastern Parkway symbolized the success of Haitian immigrants to provide a place for people of their culture to worship. Hebron Church reunited Haitians that were spread out in New York under one roof. Obviously, the growing number of members would affect the building that the church owned. The second pastor of the church, Pastor Mathieu Bermingham resolved this problem in the upcoming years."

Sr. Cetoute:

" I came to Hebron in May or June 1987. The church was already located on Dean Street. When I first came to New York, it was my cousin's husband that introduced me to the church. I stayed here because I had found a place to pray. I love Hebron. I had decided to leave Hebron and visit another SDA church called Gethsemane, now located on Empire Boulevard. But I came back here because this is where I met my husband, got married, dedicated my children, and saw them get baptized as well as myself. I can't see myself leaving this church. Sure, the number of members back there were enormous, but many of them have either died, moved, or went back to Haiti to claim their pension. Now its not crowded as it was in the past but I will still stay in the church.If its gone, then I would just have to go to another church. I have to find some way to praise the Lord."

The Influence of the Pastors of Hebron SDA Church

Pastuer Adrien: 1956-1968. He was the first pastor of Hebron SDA Church when it was just “Eglise d’expression Francaise.” With his determination to unite the Adventist Haitians, he paved the way to the future development of Hebron SDA Church.
Pastuer Adrien: 1956-1968. He was the first pastor of Hebron SDA Church when it was just “Eglise d’expression Francaise.” With his determination to unite the Adventist Haitians, he paved the way to the future development of Hebron SDA Church.
Pastuer Bermingham: 1968-1979. He was the second pastor of “Eglise d’expression Francaise.” It was under his leadership that not only did they vote to change the name of the church to Hebron SDA Church but he also found the location where the church now stands. During Pasteur Bermingham's time at Hebron, he increased the number of youth that attended the services and outbid other churches for the building located on 1256 Dean Street.
Pastuer Bermingham: 1968-1979. He was the second pastor of “Eglise d’expression Francaise.” It was under his leadership that not only did they vote to change the name of the church to Hebron SDA Church but he also found the location where the church now stands. During Pasteur Bermingham's time at Hebron, he increased the number of youth that attended the services and outbid other churches for the building located on 1256 Dean Street.
Each pastor had significant influence on the development of the SDA Church. With the help of the local historian, searching through Hebron's archives located in the attic of the church allowed me to discover the pastors from the beginning of the church and important changes they brought along with them.