Recently, our census traveled again to Brooklyn CD 7 Sunset Park. We first visited Sunset Park in 1995. In the 2004 Census we also visited the community.
A mixed veggie church
One of the area’s notable pastors, Bishop Joseph Mattera of Resurrection Church, recalls his history in Sunset Park in his new book, Kingdom Awakening. A blueprint for personal and societal transformation. “I started ministering in the Sunset Park section of Brooklyn New York in 1980. At the time, this community was ridden with gang violence, abandoned buildings, drug addiction and poverty.” The tumultuous legacy of the 1970s left this community “ridden with gang violence, abandoned buildings, drug addiction and poverty.”
“Growing up in New York City in the 1970’s I also witnessed the effect of racial unrest as every ethnic group formed their own gang. The Italians had the ‘Golden Guinness,’ the Blacks a gang called the ‘Spades,’ and the Spanish had the ‘Young Lords’ as well as a second ferocious gang called the ‘Savage Skulls.’ I remember the day my friends first found out that my mother, Miriam, was Puerto Rican instead of Italian. They started making fun of me, dancing wildly and calling my mother “Miriam Makeba” mimicking the then-famous female singer. From that time on I was identified as a “spic” and other words that I could never put in this book. Instead of feeling sorry…for myself, I would just give it right back to them and make fun of their parents…I made sure that I excelled in sports, physically confronted some of my antagonists…It didn’t take long before the neighborhood bullies hesitated to make fun of me because they knew the penalty they would pay. By the time I was in the seventh grade, I was …an accomplished street fighter, and generally feared...”
After becoming a Christian, Mattera practiced coalition building and racial reconciliation. He calls this cooking a culture of “mixed veggies.” The bishop grounds his peacemaking culinary perspective in the image of the great marriage supper of the Lamb of God in Revelation 7:9: “I looked, and behold, a great mulititude…from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tonuges, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches were in their hands.”
“In 1984, my wife Joyce and I founded a church in [Sunset Park]. Today we are a thriving urban church of about forty different nationalities with almost ten different spoken languages. At one point our Children of the City organization had an Asian office manager, the grant writer was from Trinidad, the executive director was of Arab and Polish decent and the counselors were Jamaican, Hispanic, Italian and Puerto Rican. We didn’t try to do this; it was simply a reflection of the ethos of our congregation... “