Woodhaven institution celebrates 140 years
by Ed Wendell
May 03, 2017 | 1205 views | 0 0 comments | 58 58 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Emanuel United Church of Christ started as a small mission in Brooklyn in 1877.
Emanuel United Church of Christ started as a small mission in Brooklyn in 1877.
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Pastor E.J. Strassburger breaks ground on a new church building on August 27, 1939. The gentleman in the light suit and striped tie is Alfred Ball, founder and longtime publisher of the Leader-Observer.
Pastor E.J. Strassburger breaks ground on a new church building on August 27, 1939. The gentleman in the light suit and striped tie is Alfred Ball, founder and longtime publisher of the Leader-Observer.
slideshow
The groundbreaking for the new church was front page news in the Leader-Observer in 1939.
The groundbreaking for the new church was front page news in the Leader-Observer in 1939.
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It’s no secret that many churches are having a difficult time these days. In a world with Facebook and Netflix and all manners of distractions, our society has become more cynical and jaded and church attendance has suffered.

Or perhaps it’s the other way around. Maybe as people have fallen out of the habit of gathering with friends and neighbors to explore their faith, it’s led them down a different path, one where caring for your neighbors isn’t as important as caring for oneself.

It’s against this backdrop that we pause to acknowledge the awesome achievement of Emanuel United Church of Christ, which has navigated its way through adversity many times and celebrates its 140th Anniversary this month.

On Sunday, May 7, Emanuel will hold a special anniversary mass that is open to the public. It's a wonderful opportunity to witness a part of Woodhaven's history being honored and remembered.

Attendees are encouraged to wear something red, as that is the liturgical color for an anniversary of a church. The mass begins at 10:45 a.m., and there will be a reception with refreshments afterwards.

And at 5 p.m. on Saturday, May 20, Emanuel will host a special old-fashioned anniversary pasta dinner with old-fashioned prices. For $5, you get pasta, bread, dessert, beverages and tasty meatballs.

It’s a deal that can’t be beat, but you need to call (718) 849-1153 to reserve your spot at this historic event celebrating this Woodhaven institution.

Sitting at the corner of 91st Avenue and Woodhaven Boulevard, Emanuel United Church of Christ has the unique distinction of being either the first or last thing people see when entering or leaving Woodhaven.

And over the years, Emanuel has been an integral part of the fabric of Woodhaven, opening their doors to welcome many community groups. Through their generosity, Emanuel has become known as “the friendly church.”

Emanuel has been part of Woodhaven for so long that it’s surprising when you dig into their history and find out that it originally started out in Manhattan, before branching out to Brooklyn in 1877 to reach the population that was rapidly expanding east.

During World War I, many of the congregation's elders began leaving Brooklyn for the wide open spaces of Queens and Long Island and Emanuel soon followed, merging with a separate mission from Richmond Hill and purchasing a plot at 89th Avenue and Woodhaven Boulevard.

The 89th Avenue church building was opened in 1924, but it lasted just a little over a decade. A year after its 60th Anniversary, in 1938, the City of New York took over the property and tore down the church as part of the project to widen Woodhaven Boulevard.

For those familiar with the area, the old church sat at 89th Avenue at what is now the middle of Woodhaven Boulevard.

The congregation received $136,000 from the city, bought a nearby plot of land on 91st Avenue, and built the beautiful church that has welcomed travelers to Woodhaven ever since.

It is a true community church, serving as the focal point for Anniversary Day Parades, Boy Scout meetings, and where community issues are hashed out during meetings of the Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association.

Emanuel has also served as the home for monthly meetings of the Woodhaven Cultural & Historical Society on the last Wednesday of every month at 1 p.m. for the last 25 years.

Whenever the community has needed help, the folks at Emanuel have always generously opened their doors, looking for ways to help. They serve as a mirror for our community, reflecting the best that Woodhaven has to offer, where caring for your neighbors and caring for the community is more important than caring for oneself.

It is that strength that has kept Emanuel alive and well into their 140th year, and we hope the community will come out this month to celebrate with them.
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