The mystery of the illegal church!
June 16, 2012 3:21 PM   Subscribe

The building I live in is host to an illegal church. Help me figure out what kind it is!

So, before I moved in to my new apartment, I checked the building out on New York's Department of Buildings site to see if there were any major issues with the building. The primary complaints were about broken elevators, a standard for an old building in Brooklyn, but most interestingly was the repeated complaint that someone is running an illegal church on Saturdays on the sixth floor.

Sure enough, once I moved in, Saturday early evening came around and I could hear it. It does not bother me at all and I have no complaints about it, but it sounds interesting and I want to identify what's going on up there!

Pertinant information:

* My neighborhood is primarily Caribbean and West African
* The service starts with a lot of bell ringing, and there is some bell ringing throughout
* There are drums
* There is chanting, not in English, though I can't determine what language it is in.
* Some of the chanting involves ALLELUJAs
* Starts around 5-ish on Saturdays

Any ideas? I mean, I know the obvious solution is to go up there and go, hey guys, what's going on? But who wants some curious white jerk interrupting their church service?
posted by whitneyarner to Society & Culture (15 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
What exactly makes the church illegal, did the complaints say? I can't see why it would be illegal to hold a religious gathering in your home.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 3:24 PM on June 16, 2012 [4 favorites]

From the DOB:


posted by whitneyarner at 3:28 PM on June 16, 2012

As I said, I am absolutely not bothered by it and actually think it's pretty cool. I'm just curious about it but don't want to intrude on anyone.
posted by whitneyarner at 3:33 PM on June 16, 2012

Here's the bell ringing.
posted by empath at 3:36 PM on June 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

Wow, Empath, that's really fascinating. Thank you!
posted by two lights above the sea at 3:40 PM on June 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

That is SO exactly it. Awesome! Thank you!
posted by whitneyarner at 3:42 PM on June 16, 2012

I think you should drop by and ask to sit in and then update us with how it goes. Looks completely fascinating to me.
posted by empath at 3:50 PM on June 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

Yeah, some googling got me this. Sounds pretty cool! I think I'll wait until I've been living here a little longer before going and getting nosy, though.
posted by whitneyarner at 3:56 PM on June 16, 2012

What exactly makes the church illegal, did the complaints say? I can't see why it would be illegal to hold a religious gathering in your home.

The complaints may have been written in inflammatory language to try to get the authorities to intervene, but there are some potential issues, mostly having to do with how many whether the building's exiting system can handle a bunch of people. There's probably some weird line where a weekly religious meeting becomes a church assembly as determined by the building code, and churches may not be allowed in that zoning area, the building may not be rated for an "assembly" occupancy, etc.

posted by LionIndex at 4:16 PM on June 16, 2012

Yeah, churches are as prone to fires as any building, more in some cases if they burn incense and candles. That means you have to be able to get everyone out of the church in an emergency. If it is a small gathering, no problem. If it is 30 people trying to cram into a 1 person apartment? Possible problem.
posted by Canageek at 6:04 PM on June 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


So what, exactly, are the gatherings upstairs allegedly trading and/or manufacturing? And how are they any more of a fire risk than any other house party? I'm not seeing this at all.
posted by flabdablet at 8:20 PM on June 16, 2012

Well, the complaint is from 2010, and the only action noted on it is that an inspector went to the residence on several occasions (most recently in March) and no one answered, so clearly the city does not particularly care.

"Illegal church" just sounds interesting, though, doesn't it?
posted by whitneyarner at 8:29 PM on June 16, 2012

[A couple of comments deleted. It is an interesting topic, but sorry, kids: this really isn't the place for a free-ranging discussion of illegal churches. We're looking for educated guesses about what sort of church the OP might have upstairs.]
posted by taz (staff) at 11:41 PM on June 16, 2012

Sounded sort of like Eastern Othodox to me at first. I'd also suggest asking someone about it when they're coming in or wrapping up, I'd be surprised if they weren't very willing to tell you a bit about it.
posted by airways at 5:55 AM on June 17, 2012

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