“There was a lot of concern that with one strong wind it could come down and cause a lot of damage,” he said. “So we made the difficult decision to take it down.”
But Rev. Whitmire remembered a conversation he had with local historian Allan Smith, whose family were parishioners there when it was known as St. Matthew’s. Allan Smith went to Sunday School at and was baptized there.
“He told me that he had planted the tree we were taking down, so we knew it was only fitting that he plant the new tree as well,” Rev. Whitmire said.
And so, this week members of All Saints gathered in the rain to say farewell to one old tree and welcome another into their family.
All Saints has a long, interesting history here in Woodhaven. It was originally organized in 1900 as an offshoot of the Church of the Resurrection in Richmond Hill to accommodate the expanding population of the Brooklyn Manor section of Woodhaven.
The first home for St. Matthew’s was a storefront on Jamaica Avenue near 91st Street, in what is now a jewelry shop next to the Avenue Diner. Lots on Willard Avenue (now 96th Street) were purchased soon thereafter and the cornerstone of a small wooden church was laid on November 4, 1900.
Because of the flowers that populated the field it was built upon, St. Matthew’s took the nickname "The Church in the Daisy Fields."
Over the next few decades, the parish outgrew the wooden building and the cornerstone for a new rural English Gothic style church with a square bell tower was laid in November 1927.
All Saints has undergone a major renovation over the past 18 months, with the old parish hall being gutted and remodeled with new restrooms and a new kitchen. The major addition to the property was the installation of an elevator to bring visitors between the different floors of the parish house.
And now that the building is just about complete, All Saints is looking to open their doors to the community.
Starting Tuesday, July 2, at 7 p.m., All Saints will be hosting family movie nights, beginning with the Disney classic The Aristocats. The fun continues every Tuesday through the end of August with films like Jurassic Park, Annie, Alvin and the Chipmunks and more.
For those who like getting their hands dirty in the fresh air, the church has built a garden in the front yard with tomatoes and blueberries that young volunteers tend to every Saturday from 10 a.m. to noon.
And if you’ve ever wondered how our American forebears and founding fathers worshipped in the times immediately following the Revolutionary War, All Saints will be hosting a special offering at 10 a.m. on July 4 adhering to the prayer books of the 1770s and 1780s.
“This is an opportunity to experience firsthand how early American Anglicans, including President George Washington, worshipped,” sais Rev. Whitmire. “We do this so that we may gain a better understanding of both our patrimony as Anglicans, and of the religious life of those who shaped this country.”
Interestingly, some of President Washington’s contemporaries are buried nearby in the Wyckoff-Snediker Family Cemetery that sits behind the church.
The cemetery was neglected for many years until St. Matt’s closed and reopened as All Saints. Rev. Whitmire reached out to the Woodhaven Cultural & Historical Society, who then worked with locals to clean up and restore the cemetery.
Due to the construction and insurance and safety concerns, we were not allowed into the cemetery to maintain it, so it’s badly overgrown. But we’ll be tackling that soon enough, and it’s only a year’s worth of growth we’re dealing with as opposed to the decades of neglect we dealt with in 2014.
Smith had mixed emotions as he watched the old tree cut down and replaced with the new one.
“I wish this tree well and hope it stands for 100 years or more,” he said.
If you have any questions about All Saints Episcopal Church or any of their activities, call (718) 849-2352.