The Community Presbyterian Church of Merrick was
founded on May 8, 1929. It was the eighteenth church to open its doors to
worshippers in Nassau County.
One of the Trustees first orders of business was
to purchase 100 sets of pledge cards and leaflets. The church's first
stewardship drive was under way, and by June 4, 1929, the Board of Trustees
reported a balance of $202.28 in the account. A $2,000 loan was obtained from
the Church Extension Board.
The first services were held in the Empire Fire
Hall. Driven by faith and commitment, the Trustees commenced a building fund
drive for $25,000 at a time when the country was in a deep depression. Soon
appropriate land on William Place was selected, a private mortgage was obtained
from a member of the congregation, pledges poured in, and building commenced.
The construction phase was not always smooth. A lien of $300 was placed on the
church by a lumber company for failure to pay the bills promptly. There were
also problems with the heating system as well as leaks in the tower and chancel
corridor. But in four months the construction was completed and 49 members
celebrated the dedication on November 29, 1931.
At times during the first few years the budget
was overspent. In 1932, the Merrick church used some of the money that had been
specifically earmarked for the Benevolent and Mission Fund to cover current
church expenses instead. The Brooklyn-Nassau Presbytery issued a strong
warning, which the church took very seriously, and even during periods of
severe financial hardship since that time, the pledge to Benevolence/Mission
always came first.
In 1935, the church's proposed budget was
$5,528.09, most to be raised by pledges from membership, but in truth it was
the ladies of the Women's League who kept the church afloat for many of these
difficult years. And so it continued through the Depression, the church holding
its own as the focal point for many Merrick families. With the refinancing of
debt and provision for future liquidation of it, the church was becoming more
financially viable. The improved financial outlook was indeed timely.
When the war was over, many families relocated
from the city to Long Island. Many returning service men and women were married
soon after discharge, and most of them hastened to start families. Church
membership soared higher than ever before.
A renovation of the church building was
undertaken in 1954, but on January 12, 1955, a fire gutted the church hall and
basement, causing extensive damage in the amount of $43,000. Services were held
in the Reformed Jewish Synagogue during the six-month rebuilding. Three years
later, however, expansion became a necessity. In 1955, church membership had
climbed to 573. A survey was made to determine what additional facilities would
be needed. The result was the addition of a new annex building, completed in
1961 that included eight classrooms, a convenient restroom, and generous
storage facilities. In addition to using the space for Sunday School, the
church began renting it to the Merrick School District on weekdays for
much-needed classroom space. The church's membership continued to grow,
reaching over 600 in its peak year of 1965.
Many of the Merrick young people who were
unaffiliated with a church joined the Youth Group, participated in services,
weekend retreats, basketball or volleyball tournaments, and worked in the
church kitchen. The Women's League, The Couples Club, and various church committees
held dances, parties, and covered dish dinners. Social concerns were frequently
addressed, and missionary work was supported throughout the world. Families
contributed food, books, clothing and bedding for missions within the United
States and raised money for foreign missions.
Throughout the years the church building has been
made available to many community organizations, including Scouts, Alcoholics
Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, the Homemakers Club, a senior citizens club,
the Greek Orthodox Church, the Board of Elections, Little Village School, a
school for young children with handicaps, the Merokee Day School, and the
Roosevelt Presbyterian Sunday School. In all of this, there continues to be a
strong commitment to serving the community as we live up to our name and our
faith, following in Christ's footsteps.
The period of the late 1960s into the early 1970s
was a high watermark in terms of membership figures. It was also a period of
greater stability, with the longer term pastorate of The Reverend Larry
But in time, membership began to decline as
demographics in Merrick changed. And when the Rev. Ainsworth moved on in 1974,
a new period of change and uncertainty was created for the congregation.
In 1975, we selected Rev. Gary Haase to become
our Pastor. Pastor Haase then led us through the next five years as we
continued the trend toward a smaller, but in some ways stronger, congregation.
Following the arrival of Rev. Thomas Philipp in the early
1980s, renewed stability was achieved.
Rev. Philipp applied new energy and initiative as the church continued
to re-envision itself in the form of a smaller congregation. New programs
formed, including the Peace Essay Contest - an annual outreach effort to the
local schools, as well as the annual Lenten Program, a joining together of a
number of Protestant churches in the Merricks and Bellmores. A number of the
congregation became regularly active in the Inn, the Interfaith Nutrition
Network, working in local soup kitchens on a regular basis, and walking in the
annual Good Friday Walk Against Hunger.
And while the church was now too small for formal
youth programs, smaller activities, including trips into NY City, the Bethpage
Village Restoration, and the Holmes Presbyterian Camp, were held in order to
enrich the fellowship.
Over the next 25 years, Pastor Philipp led an
active, if small, congregation in their outreach efforts to the community at
large. During this time, the church celebrated anniversaries for 50, 60, and
finally 75 years, the latter anniversary in 2004 being a gala event at the
Coral House in Baldwin.
And in 2006, we returned to Coral House, to
celebrate Rev. Philipp's retirement. The gathering was well attended by
members, friends, and local dignitaries.
Over the next five years, we were blessed by the
leadership of our Interim Pastor, the Reverend Nancy S.
Jennings. Pastor Nancy proved to be an Interim/part-time, pastor in
name only. With great enthusiasm and vibrancy, she navigated our congregation
through the difficult period of transition from a pastorate of over 25
years to that of new beginnings. Thank you, Pastor Nancy.
And in September, 2013, we welcomed our new
Pastor, the Reverend Dennis Carter, to our fellowship. These are exciting
times at our church, as we begin to write a new chapter in our history
under the leadership of Pastor Dennis.
After 85 years, we still look forward
to a future as that "Friendly church just around the corner," neither
too large - and hopefully - not too small, where we continue to perform God's
All are welcome!
J. Canfield Van Doren 1928
Winn, Jr. 1947
Lee Vaughn Barker 1950
Lawrence Ainsworth 1961
Jennings (Interim) 2006
Ralph Wright, Jr. (Supply) 2016 -