Written by Stephen Levine Friday, 17 August 2012 00:00
Now 100 years later, the same church that developed during the presidency of Woodrow Wilson is continuing to go strong in 2012 as it recently celebrated its centennial.
It took many years for the church that can now be found on Plainfield Avenue and Spooner Street to develop into the church it is today. Until 1926, the church was located across Jericho Turnpike, instead of just south of it.
By 1956, the church added a new addition that gave the congregation complete facilities without any major indebtedness. The new addition is referred to as the new building and contains a gymnasium and extra space, making it easier to hold church events.
“I would attribute the longevity of the church to good leadership over the past for pastors and congregation- those are really good measures of a church,” said current Pastor John Flack. “We made a transition to become more welcoming and open before I got here even though we’ve always been welcoming and open. At the end of the day, the lifespan of a church is up to God.”
The great leadership can be attributed all the way back to the church’s origins where they had a total of five pastors leading the congregation. Pastors Peterson, Halter, Keller and Hoffmeister led the congregation until January of 1917, when the “legendary” Pastor Ralph M. Durr took over and served as the pastor for the next 47 years.
After the well-respected and long-standing Pastor Durr retired, his longtime assistant, Pastor Paul T. Schmidt took over and succeeded him until his decision to go into library science in 1965. That year, Pastor Lloyd S. Berg became the pastor for the next 10 years until he was called over to another parish on Staten Island, when Pastor Robert J. Rodriguez took over for eight years until he received a call to serve as a chaplain for the U.S. Navy.
Right before current Pastor Flack, Pastor Albert C. Martin served the church for over 30 years until Pastor Flack stepped in a little over three years ago.
“I feel intimidated because I want to live up to my predecessors,” said Pastor Flack. “Luckily I feel like I have a good working relationship with the congregation- they make it really easy on me, which is good for a young pastor - they are very patient and supportive.”
Today, the Christ Evangelical Lutheran Church offers a variety of new programs such as Kids Night, which occurs every third Friday of the month. During Kids Night there are movies, games, pizza, and sometimes even a rock out session of Rock Band. There are also periodic church social nights and biannual church fairs, along with Sunday school and Sunday morning worship.
Despite the recent poor history of some churches in the United States, this particular church has no long-standing history of conflict. In fact, the biggest problem facing the church today is one that many members of the tight-knit community might not expect.
“There are not many controversies at this church,” said Pastor Flack. “Churches are like families - there is no history of conflict. The biggest problem is that alternatives to churches are more prevalent. The importance of faith faces a lot more competition. When moving to a new place, the best thing to do was to join a church to meet people. There is not as much immigration and there are other ways to meet people. The question is how do we remain a way to show God’s love when people seem to care less about God.”
An English gothic wood-beamed hall of worship seating 300 is the central and most important feature of the church’s facilities. Stained glass windows in the room depict the scenes of the significance of the Christian faith.
The three largest stained glass windows depict the Lord’s birth, crucifixion and resurrection. The nativity window is illuminated at night and can be seen by Jericho Turnpike traffic. Behind the altar there is a design of intricate woodcarvings done by hand in Germany.
The beautiful windows and woodcarvings provide a great atmosphere for church members to take part in to honor the mission statement of the Christ Evangelical Lutheran Church: “Knowing the love of God and the Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ our Lord, and empowered by the Holy Spirit, we the people of the Christ Evangelical Lutheran Church, Floral Park, profess our faith as a community of believers by: administering the Sacraments and proclaiming the Gospel; actively learning and teaching God’s Word; being faithful witnesses of Christ in service to all God’s people; being faithful stewards of the gifts God has given us; providing opportunities for spiritual growth.”