2008-11-12 / Features

Astoria UM Church Hails Building's 100th Year

BY LINDA J. WILSON

Photos Andy Cosmatos Congressmember Carolyn Maloney presents an American flag that flew over the United States Capitol to Pastor Bette Johnson Sohm and the Rev. Yong Bo Lee, spiritual leaders of the Good Shepherd United Methodist Church and United Methodist Korean Church of Astoria, respectively, at a service celebrating the 100th anniversary of the laying of the cornerstone of the church building at 30-44 Crescent St., Astoria. Photos Andy Cosmatos Congressmember Carolyn Maloney presents an American flag that flew over the United States Capitol to Pastor Bette Johnson Sohm and the Rev. Yong Bo Lee, spiritual leaders of the Good Shepherd United Methodist Church and United Methodist Korean Church of Astoria, respectively, at a service celebrating the 100th anniversary of the laying of the cornerstone of the church building at 30-44 Crescent St., Astoria. Good Shepherd United Methodist Church celebrated the 100th anniversary of the laying of the cornerstone of the building in which its congregation still worships, at the southwest corner of Crescent Street and 30th Road, on October 19. A day-long celebration, beginning with the morning worship service at 10 a.m. and ending with a covered- dish fellowship dinner at 4:30 p.m. marked the start of a year of special events. Congressmember Carolyn Maloney attended a 3 p.m. commemoration service and presented the church with a flag that had flown over the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C. "My mother was a Methodist," she told a congregation that included the six living pastors to serve the church in its 176-year-long history.

Pastor Cynthia Major, Good Shepherd United Methodist Church spiritual leader from 2006 to 2008, serves Communion to a celebrant at a commemoration service held for the 100th anniversary of the laying of the church building cornerstone on October 19. Pastor Cynthia Major, Good Shepherd United Methodist Church spiritual leader from 2006 to 2008, serves Communion to a celebrant at a commemoration service held for the 100th anniversary of the laying of the church building cornerstone on October 19. In 1836, nearly 50 years after the religious movement known as Methodism was formally established in New York City, a small group of Methodists in the part of Queens now known as Astoria formed classes—the basis of Methodism—and held meetings in one another's homes. Worship also took place in a schoolhouse on the south side of 27th Avenue between 14th and 18th Streets. Two- and three-family homes now occupy the site.

The First Methodist Episcopal Church of Astoria, which eventually became Good Shepherd United Methodist Church, received a legislative charter in 1841 and in 1842 the cornerstone of what would become the congregation's first church was laid in a site near the junction of Main Avenue and Astoria Boulevard. The building was completed three years later and still stands today; it holds apartments and commercial space.

Photo Andy Cosmatos "Pastors' Row" at the Good Shepherd United Methodist Church commemoration service for the 100th anniversary of the laying of the church building cornerstone October 19 (l. to r.): The Reverends Yong Bo Lee, pastor of the Korean United Methodist Church of Astoria, John H. Cole (pastor from 1982 to 1994), Louis E. Rowley (1960-1974), Cynthia Major (2006-2008) and Jodey Williams, seminarian at Good Shepherd, ordained in May 2008. Photo Andy Cosmatos "Pastors' Row" at the Good Shepherd United Methodist Church commemoration service for the 100th anniversary of the laying of the church building cornerstone October 19 (l. to r.): The Reverends Yong Bo Lee, pastor of the Korean United Methodist Church of Astoria, John H. Cole (pastor from 1982 to 1994), Louis E. Rowley (1960-1974), Cynthia Major (2006-2008) and Jodey Williams, seminarian at Good Shepherd, ordained in May 2008. The congregation's second home was a wooden structure built in 1886 at the corner of Crescent Street and 30th Road. The congregation worshipped in this building for 22 years, and in 1902 celebrated the burning of the mortgage. In 1908, the structure was put on log rollers and moved by a team of horses to the southwest corner of 21st Street and 31st Road, where it still stands today. The building was renamed St. Paul's United

Methodist Church and the congregation of the Italian United Methodist Church of Astoria worshipped in the building until that congregation joined with First Methodist in 1982 and the building on 21st Street became San Pablo United Methodist Church.

The cornerstone of the building that today is known as Good Shepherd United Methodist Church was laid in 1908, but contracting delays kept the structure from being completed until 1911. In the meantime the congregation worshipped in temporary space in the original building of what today is known as Mount Sinai Hospital of Queens and in its neighbor across 30th Road, the Episcopal Church of the Redeemer. The third church building to house the first Methodist Episcopal Church of Astoria was dedicated Oct. 30, 1911 and the congregation has worshipped in its sanctuary from that date onward. The cornerstone for the Community House addition to the building was laid in 1931 and the building completed a few years later. In 1970 the congregation of the Korean United Methodist Church of Astoria began sharing the building and worships in the sanctuary today.

The church took its present name when the congregation of St. Paul's United Methodist Church joined with First United Methodist Church and a member of the congregation suggested that the north-facing stained glass window in the sanctuary that depicts Jesus as the Caring Shepherd of the congregation serve as its namesake. The church welcomed its first female pastor in 1995 and its first African-American pastor, also female, in 2006.

Today, the church provides meeting space for several Narcotics and Alcoholics Anonymous groups and recently entered into an agreement with the Astoria Performing Arts Center for use as a rehearsal and performance space. (See story by Georgina Young-Ellis in this issue.)

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