CROWN HEIGHTS — “Arise, walk about the land through its length and breadth, for I will give it to you.” – Genesis 13:17.
There are numerous references to walking in the Bible, and at St. Gregory the Great Church, Crown Heights, the congregation takes them seriously.
The church organizes summer strolls to foster a sense of camaraderie among parishioners. Led by longtime parishioner Margaret Casey, church members gather in front of the church at 224 Brooklyn Ave. every Monday evening at 7 p.m. to take a leisurely stroll through the neighborhood and into neighboring Bedford-Stuyvesant before returning to their starting point.
The weekly walks, which cover approximately two miles, are a great way for parishioners to get to know each other, Casey said. “We meet people that you see in church where you know the face but not the name. You also get to talk to people you think you know and learn something new about them,” she said.
On a recent sweltering Monday, Casey was joined by a hearty band of seven fellow strollers, including Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus Guy Sansaricq, who is in residence at St. Matthew Parish. The parish encompasses three churches — St. Matthew, Our Lady of Charity and St. Gregory the Great. In addition to Casey and Bishop Sansaricq, the walkers included Philemon Kispotta, Phyllis Marin, Bria Thorne, Lorna Gilkes and Theresa Stephen.
Aside from being enjoyable, the walks serve another purpose — to bring people closer to their religion.
“It helps them develop relationships,” Bishop Sansaricq explained. “We as Christians and especially as Catholics, are not in an individualistic religion. It’s a community religion. How you show your love for God is your love for the neighbor,” he said.
The group set off from the church and headed up Sterling Place to New York Avenue, then up New York Avenue for several blocks to Fulton Street in Bed-Stuy, where the walk continued.
At one point, Bishop Sansaricq, like a shepherd tending to his flock, stopped and turned around to make sure a few stragglers in the group had a chance to catch up.
The path included the Crown Heights North Historic District. The district is listed on the National Park Service’s National Registry of Historic Places because of its distinctive architecture. The neighborhood has homes built in the 19th Century in such architectural styles as Greek Revival, Queen Anne, Romanesque and French Renaissance.
Along the way, Theresa Milburn, a stroll regular, pointed out homes and churches that were particularly striking to a first-timer. “This is such a beautiful neighborhood. And we don’t always take the time to really look at it,” she said, adding that the walk gives her the chance to do just that.
Casey agreed. “When we’re walking, that’s when I notice things that you don’t see when you’re driving by in a car,” she said.
The summer strolls are open to anyone who wishes to join. For more information, call St. Gregory the Great Church at 718-773-0100.