When the Ephesus Seventh-day Adventist Church in Harlem restored the tip of its steeple eight years ago, leaders of the predominantly African-American congregation saw it as a “beacon of hope and love for the community.”
It is still that. But as Ephesus prepares to celebrate its 90th anniversary this month, the slender spire piercing the sky above Lenox Avenue and 123rd Street has taken on additional symbolism.
Determination, to put it politely. Defiance, to be more blunt, as Harlem becomes whiter, more affluent and ever less moored to its black heritage.
“The beauty of Harlem is being lost,” Dedrick L. Blue, the senior pastor of the church, said in an interview last week. “Pieces of its history are being destroyed by modern development and greed.
“The steeple represents certain things that must endure. Faith must endure. History must endure. In a city where people see churches only as relics, this steeple says, ‘No, this is an act of faith.’ And it is an act of faith to stay here.”