Jamaica’s First Presbyterian Church Marks 350th Anniversary
Hundreds of parishioners, clergy and politicians gathered on June 10 to commemorate the 350th anniversary of First Presbyterian Church in Jamaica, the oldest continuously serving Presbyterian church in the United States. 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,” First Church Senior Pastor Reverend Patrick O’Connor said. “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 Councilmembers Leroy Comrie, James Gennaro and Executive Presbyter for the Presbytery of New York City Tony De La Rosa 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 a letter of well wishes from Governor Andrew Cuomo was read, “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 10 will be known hereafter as First Presbyterian Church in Jamaica Day.
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 June 22 at Leonard’s of Great Neck, where the church will honor 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.
Many interesting facts about the First Presbyterian Church in Jamaica include the following:
•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.
•Institutions/ministries originating from First Church include the Jamaica YMCA, Jamaica Hospital, Princeton University, the House of Hope and the First Presbyterian Churches of Springfield Gardens, Hollis, St. Albans, Queens Village, Dunton and Throop.
•During the American Civil War, First Church played host to an entire regiment of Connecticut Yankee soldiers when a Long Island Rail Road 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 three o’clock, following a school for white children at one 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.