Damage from July Storm Keeps Congregation Out of Church

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A 19th-century Episcopal church in Brooklyn has still not been able to hold services nearly eight weeks after it was damaged in a thunderstorm.

The 170-year-old Christ Church in Cobble Hill was hit by lightning in a July 26 thunderstorm. The strike caused the church’s 70-foot tower to collapse onto the scaffolding below, killing 61-year-old Richard Schwartz, an assistant attorney general with New York State.

There are no immediate plans to repair the tower, said Rev. Canon Shawn Duncan, with the Episcopal Diocese of Long Island, which oversees 140 congregations in Brooklyn, Queens, Nassau and Suffolk Counties.

“All our focus at this point has been on removing damaged sections of the tower, so that the streets are safe and we can get approval from the Department of Buildings and the Office of Emergency Management to reoccupy the parish hall,” Duncan explained.

Contractors have told church officials they’re about two weeks from completing their work at Christ Church, Duncan said. 

Since the storm, the church’s members have been holding services at the Kane Street Synagogue, about a block away.

“Christ Church Cobble Hill is an incredibly tight-knit close community, so that kind of community has been sustaining them,” Duncan said.