Southwest Brooklyn

2023 Southwest Brooklyn Conference Report 

The Rev. Khader Khalilia


We Are Resilient TOGETHER

Over the past three years, the pandemic has caused our sense of human community and churches to radically change. Even before the pandemic, there was a trend toward moving our lives online, but during these past three years, many of us have lived through our screens in ways we could never have expected.  And yet, surprisingly, we have mostly managed to adapt.  And I was amazed and very inspired and grateful about the way churches in the Southwest Brooklyn Conference so quickly and successfully adapted to becoming mostly digital, and then hybrid after that, and now returning to in-person. The opportunity to attend online opened up the ability for members and friends, who have moved or were stuck in other states, to once again take part in the life of their congregations.  Some members in this category have significantly returned to increased participation, including joining the council, since the pandemic. Churches managed to continue their outreach and religious activities, from joint, online Bible study, to joint Sunday school and joint confirmation classes with churches in the conference, and even joint worship services. In the past year, as things have opened up again, we have been able to hold more in-person, collaborative gatherings between churches and one another, and between churches and different communities in our neighborhoods.
Some churches in our conference are looking for more intentional collaborative work together. For example, the collaboration between Redeemer – St. John’s and Our Saviour’s and Salam is going well under the leadership and guidance of Peggy Hahn from LEAD. Our Saviour’s and Salam will be moving to Redeemer – St. John’s after Easter for the Sunday worship service. The three congregations will have two services each Sunday; one in Arabic and one in English. A midweek service will also be held every Wednesday. And youth activities of the three congregations will be combined and will take place on Fridays and Sundays.
Other congregations have increased their community outreach and social programs. Good Shepherd and Trinity Lutheran Church became a hub of food distribution for people who are in need. Good Shepherd was utilized also as a center for vaccine distribution and blood donation. St. Jacobi Lutheran Church’s missional work continues to bear faithful witness to the gospel of Jesus Christ. The Chinese ministry is growing rapidly under the faithful work of Pr. Mary Chang and her outreach team. They now have two services; one on Sunday and one on Monday. And this year alone, two candidates from the Chinese community that has grown around St. Jacobi’s, have enrolled in the TEEM program. 
Bethlehem Lutheran Church is growing in numbers, and its outreach efforts, including the recent expansion of its senior center, which in the summer of 2023, will move from the church’s basement to a much larger, new location.  And the Healing Center which is a ministry of Bethlehem Lutheran Church, celebrated its 22nd anniversary under the leadership of Antonia Clemente. 
Groundbreaking of the Bay Ridge Center

We Are Hopeful TOGETHER

As we look to 2023 and beyond as a conference, we are filled with a lot of excitement and hope. We are all back to in-person gatherings—but we should acknowledge and embrace the fact that things will also be different. Things will be different, but we will move forward as churches together. I am grateful that our bishop and synod have been accompanying us on this journey and have been meeting with congregations to help them discern their future for the sake of the gospel.  
Here are some highlights:
  • St. Jacobi Lutheran Church celebrated its 130th anniversary
  • Salam partnered with ELCA World Hunger to receive three years of grants that will tackle food insecurity, immigration, and mental illness 
  • Redeemer-St. John’s, Our Saviour’s, and Salam have the great potential of becoming one church with two services; one in Arabic and one in English as well as many other programs and a great potential for community outreach and service
  • Redeemer – St. John’s (and its partners) are exploring the possibility of adding another pastor to the staff to reach out to the growing Chinese community in the neighborhood, and the three churches are seeking to add a youth director to lead their growing youth ministries

We Are Church Together — Living Like Christ in Our Communities!

The churches in our conference are working together with people in the community for the sake of the gospel and to share the good news of Jesus. The churches in our conference opened their doors to serve the needs of our community: from opening our schools to providing food assistance and counseling, and to working with the 68th precinct to educate police officers about different immigrant communities by building bridges of understanding.