Harlem, New York
A New Rose Blooms: Ideal Org and Community Center Opens in Harlem
July 31, 2016
Harlem’s new Ideal Scientology Church and Community Center is called a “center of hope on 125th Street” in stirring grand opening ceremony held Sunday July 31, 2016.
Water surrounds it. The East, Harlem and Hudson Rivers form its boundaries, but Harlem is transcendent. For generations, this neighborhood has been the spiritual center of African-American and Caribbean life in the United States. Trends in music, dance, poetry and art regularly emerge from this place just north of New York City’s Central Park. Its cultural significance reaches far beyond its physical borders—Harlem runs deep into the soul of America.
A steady rain gave way—as if on cue—moments before the ceremony began. “There is nowhere else like Harlem,” said David Miscavige, Chairman of the Board Religious Technology Center, and ecclesiastical leader of the Church. “Your renaissance poets, your playwrights, your painters, your authors and musicians—even a mere recitation of the names is humbling: Duke Ellington, Cab Calloway, Billie Holiday, Claude McKay and Louis Armstrong. What else need one say except: ‘Excise Harlem from American history and everything turns lukewarm.’”
On Sunday, July 31, the Church of Scientology opened a new Ideal Church and Community Center on Manhattan’s famed 125th Street. The occasion marked a celebration of the very Harlem spirit that has permeated the cultural landscape of American history. From live entertainment that featured odes to Jazz, Afro-Latin dance, Beatboxing and Hip-Hop, to dignitaries who span the political, cultural and spiritual spectrum of Harlem and New York City public advocacy, the new Church and Community Center was inaugurated in a ceremony that evoked the life-affirming passion for which Harlem is renowned.
“We are here to celebrate the heartbeat of Harlem, which is also the heartbeat of humanity,” said Mr. Miscavige in his inauguration address. “And all you have to do is press your ear to the ground, and hear it reverberating, over and over: Harlem. Harlem. Harlem. Whereupon, should anyone ask ‘what just happened?’ You can truthfully say: Harlem has been reborn.”
Stemming from Mr. Miscavige’s leadership, the Church of Scientology has opened the doors to more than 50 Ideal Churches—from Los Angeles to Tampa, London to Milan, Johannesburg to Tokyo and Budapest to Kaohsiung. Over the past decade, those openings have driven worldwide expansion for the religion to a rate surpassing the previous 50 years combined.
And like so many of the cities that now call an Ideal Org “theirs,” Harlem has formed a decades-long relationship with the Church, working hand in glove with individuals and groups on literacy programs, drug-prevention initiatives, human rights awareness and morals education. To that end, the Harlem Community Center now gives a permanent home for grassroots delivery of important programs like The Truth About Drugs, United for Human Rights and The Way to Happiness.
The new Church and Community Center are located just two doors apart on 125th Street—Harlem’s main street—and just one block from the Triborough Bridge. Altogether, the two buildings total 66,000 square feet and stand as a beacon for community engagement in East Harlem.
“This new Community Center represents not just an offer to help, but rather, our obligation and right to help. Because, no matter what makes each of us individuals, we all represent the brotherhood of man. And so, there is no escaping the fact that anyone’s suffering is also our suffering. And, that none of us are free unless all of us are free. When you track that to the end of the blackboard, it becomes no less than our inviolate duty to introduce humanity to every last living soul. And thereby keep faith with the family of man,” said Mr. Miscavige.
In the spirit of that offering, the thousands of Scientologists and guests in attendance were joined by city and state dignitaries in welcoming the new facility: New York State Assemblyman Robert Rodriguez; Rev. Johnny Ray Youngblood, nationally renowned minister and Senior Pastor at Mt. Pisgah Baptist Church; Rev. Joseph Jones, Human Rights Ambassador & 70th Precinct Clergy Council Member, New York City; and Mr. Raphael Benavides, President, East Harlem Merchants Association.
“You could have chosen anywhere to establish your new cutting-edge presence,” said Assemblyman Rodriguez in his welcome address. “I am particularly grateful that of all the places across New York City and the world you chose this community. And we have some fertile ground here. When Harlem moves, the whole world shakes… And I believe that by simply opening your doors you are going to be giving an opportunity to this community, opportunity for progression. And when you add the potential for tutoring options to strengthen our youth, lectures and workshops for life skills, courses on basics of living or even just a friendly word of advice, this center can be a center of hope on 125th Street.”
The Rev. Johnny Ray Youngblood added, “Our cities and communities are loaded with ‘Storefront Churches.’ And so, on this occasion of a realized dream today, this Ideal Church of Scientology and Community Center is raised as a beacon of light in the turbulent seas of our times. On this day, the analogy of the seed comes to mind. For when you water it and place it in the right soil, look at what it becomes. And so behold this Ideal Org that has blossomed before us. May it be a mighty lighthouse for the people of Harlem and the people of every borough of our beloved city.”
Reflecting on how the dedication signals newfound promise for East Harlem, Mr. Raphael Benavides, President of the neighborhood’s Merchants Association observed, “Inside this Center are tools for making a community thrive. That special booklet The Way to Happiness has been having a tremendous impact in our community. And with its continued distribution and this Center, Harlem now has a powerful catalyst to ensure that our neighborhood continues walking down the right path—to thrive. So from law enforcement to businesses and organizations, the whole community is now embracing this little booklet.”
The impact that Scientology has on the fight for human rights was apparent in the Reverend Joseph Jones remarks: “We’re here to stake a claim for today to design our own tomorrow. And it’s a tomorrow inscribed with that term: ‘Human Rights!’ Your human rights program has taken on a life all its own. It’s an unstoppable train hurtling toward freedom and justice. After all, your effort for a person’s rights was born out of the inspiration of a ministry led by that visionary, L. Ron Hubbard. And thus, it stands in recognition that the human spirit is still our greatest resource—united in a cause there is nothing that can defeat it.
“And so in light of what we celebrate today, let Harlem and all New York City come together in the name of reaching our most precious goals in defending our human rights—in this the greatest city on Earth.”
With that, Mr. Miscavige joined by an assemblage of dignitaries, pulled the rope that dropped the ribbons officially opening the new Ideal Org and Community Center as the crowd chanted, “Harlem, Harlem, Harlem.”
The new Harlem Ideal Org provides visitors with an introduction to Dianetics and Scientology, beginning with the Public Information Center. Its displays, containing more than 500 films, present the beliefs and practices of the Scientology religion and the life and legacy of Founder L. Ron Hubbard.
The Information Center also offers a detailed overview of the many Scientology-supported humanitarian programs. These include a worldwide human rights education initiative; a far-reaching drug education, prevention and rehabilitation program; a global network of literacy and learning centers; and the Scientology Volunteer Minister program, now representing the world’s largest independent relief force.
Harlem’s Ideal Org also features a Chapel that provides for Scientology congregational gatherings, including Sunday Services, weddings and naming ceremonies, as well as a host of community-wide events open to members of all denominations. The facility further includes multiple seminar rooms and classrooms and a complete tutoring and learning center, in addition to an entire floor dedicated to Scientology auditing (spiritual counseling).
The Harlem opening continues an unrelenting growth period for the Church in the past 12 months. Recent Ideal Church openings have occurred in Budapest, Hungary; Atlanta, Georgia; Milan, Italy; Tokyo, Japan; Bogotá, Colombia; and Basel, Switzerland. Also, the Church recently opened Scientology Media Productions, a five-acre, technologically cutting-edge studio in Hollywood, California, in which the religion’s message will be proclaimed via television and radio broadcasting, Internet and social media and every other media platform.
And more is on the way, with openings of more Ideal Orgs in the coming year planned for cultural epicenters in Australia, New Zealand, Europe and North America.