Jamaica, NY—Hundreds of parishioners, clergy and politicians gathered on Sunday, June 10, 2012 to commemorate the 350th church anniversary of the oldest continuously serving Presbyterian church in the United States—First Presbyterian Church in Jamaica. The worship ceremony celebrated the church’s legacy of faith and service as well as offered churchgoers a sense of renewal to forge ahead into a new season of growth and ministry.
“It is always important to remember that in 1662 our Dutch founders pooled their hard earned resources together to purchase new land and create a community where the love of God was expressed in Word and deed,” shared Rev. Patrick O’Connor, First Church Senior Pastor. “Today, we celebrate and carry on their vision to reach beyond the walls of First Church to inspire and serve others.”
Longtime First Church supporters Councilman Leroy Comrie of the 27th District, Councilman James Gennaro of the 24th District, and Tony De La Rosa, Executive Presbyter for the Presbytery of New York City attended the celebratory service and offered congratulatory remarks to the church for its many years of dedicated service to the betterment of the community. In addition to, a letter of well wishes from Governor Andrew Cuomo, “We are thankful for the charitable work of First Church which brings so much hope and inspiration to families in the Metropolitan area.” The church received a proclamation from Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s office stating that June 10th will be known hereafter as First Presbyterian Church in Jamaica Day.
The sun-filled church sanctuary represented the multi-cultural congregation of members past and present who clapped, tapped and swayed to the moving tunes and messages delivered by guest preacher Rev. David K. Brawley of St. Paul Community Baptist Church. Rev. Brawley’s sermon of walking by faith and not by sight into a new era of faithful service, reaffirmed the theme of the church anniversary—“
Participants of the anniversary ceremony included local churches that originated from the First Church ministry such as Grace Episcopal Church in Jamaica. Pastor Rev. Darryl James shared details of the early feuds and tribulations church founders faced before separating, but over the years they have worked together to stand as a beacon in the community to ensure the body of faith and friendship remains.
Michael Stanley of the Empowered Queens United for Action and Leadership (EQUAL) explained how its partnership with First Church provides practical and much-need improvements in the community—increased number of residents receiving citizenship, constructed quality grocery stores, improved healthcare services and transportation for seniors, access to educational opportunities for at-risk youth, etc. Stanley also noted that Pastor Rev. O’Connor spearheaded the IAF’s national effort to influence banks to lower consumer interest rates. The worship ceremony culminated with parishioners tying strips of cloth from different nations which represented unity in Christ, as the names of the preceding First Church pastors were read.
Leading up to the 350th anniversary ceremony, First Church hosted a number of events, for members and the broader community—Heritage food and fashion festival, cultural concert, street fair and a community service day. The final celebratory event will be the Anniversary Gala held Friday, June 22 at Leonard’s of Great Neck, where the church will honoree a group of distinguished guests who have contributed to the advancement of the community and share the overall vision of the church. The gala is also a fundraiser to help First Church fulfill its goal of expanding facilities to build the Tree of Life Outreach Center. As an extension of its current family ministry, the Center will provide vulnerable youth and families with a broad range of resources, tools, support groups and programs which foster development, self-sufficiency and improve their quality of life.
A staple in the community for 350 years, First Presbyterian Church in Jamaica continues to provide resources serve the unmet needs of residents in the community. Church worship services are held on Sundays at 8:00 a.m. and 10:00 a.m., led by Senior Pastor Rev. Patrick O’Connor and Associate Pastor Rev. Aqueelah Ligonde. For more information on the 350th church anniversary events, gala sponsorship and tickets, or the Tree of Life Center contact (718) 526-4775; firstname.lastname@example.org;
First Presbyterian Church in Jamaica
Did You Know?
• Real estate mogul Donald Trump was confirmed at First Church.
• Most of the original members of First Church came from Halifax, West Yorkshire, England. They settled first in Hempstead, but moved to Jamaica in 1656.
• During the American Civil War, First Church played host to an entire regime of Connecticut Yankee Soldiers when a Long Island Railroad train broke down on the way to an encampment.
• First Church provided religious training to the slaves emancipated in December 1822. A Sunday School was held every Sunday at 3 o’clock, following a school for white children at 1 o’clock.
• During World War I the trustees of First Church turned over the chapel to the War Camp Community Service to use as a dormitory for soldiers and sailors in uniform. They also loaned space to such organizations as the Red Cross, the YMCA and the Armenian Relief to use at their disposal.
• Because of the part First Church played in the American Revolution, and the evident service its members rendered to the cause of liberty, the local chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution placed a bronze marker on the church building in 1922 to commemorate their signal devotion.