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Good afternoon

Grace United Methodist Church, Valley Stream, New York

100th Anniversary Celebration

Dinner Dance at Coral House, Baldwin, New York

March 28, 2004

 

    The following report includes text and pictures from the 100th Anniversary Celebration.  The text has been supplied by Richard Keidel, emcee; Edward Cahill, Mayor of the Village of Valley Stream; John Cole, pastor of Grace Church; and Robert Howard, former pastor.  The pictures have been provided by Wil Gamper. 

 

    We begin with Dick Keidel's introduction.

 

Good afternoon, dear friends.

 

Yesterday is history.

Tomorrow is a mystery.

Today is a gift.

That=s why they call it the present.

So, let=s take that present and have a party!

 

Which we hope will be one of the highlights of our centennial year.

 

On behalf of the entire program committee and myself I would like to welcome everybody here today to the beautiful Coral House to celebrate a joyous and extraordinary occasion in the life of our church.  One that=s been a century in the making.

 

Today is a truly happy time as is the entire centennial year of 2004.  It is also a time to reflect on 100 years of good works, benefiting both members of Grace Church and the larger community as well. Of the good news told and told again..  Of countless lives made better in this world....and the next. And also a time to remember all those who daily continue with their good works on behalf of the church as well as all those saints from whom their labors rest.

 

So, let us as a family of faith, rejoice and be happy and thankful as we celebrate a truly remarkable event B the first 100 years of Grace Church.  Amazing Grace!

 

Now, to invoke God=s continued blessings on our church and its mission, it gives me great pleasure to present the Reverend Julie Parker, former associate pastor of Grace Church, who was greatly admired for her many creative ideas, her tireless work and her engaging smile, not to mention her skill with languages and karate.  And, who is currently a PhD student in Hebrew Bible/Old Testament at Yale University.    Reverend Parker.

 

(Invocation led by Rev. Julie Parker)

 

I would like to continue the welcome of the program committee to you all again, members and friends of Grace Church and honored guests.   And, at this time I would like to specifically welcome and recognize our honored guests and let you know that our joy this afternoon is greatly increased by your presence.  First let me acknowledge with us today the Mayor of the Village of Valley Stream Ed Cahill and all the village officials sitting at his table.   Thank you all for sharing in our happiness today. 

 

Gratefully recognizing that it was only through the dedication and hard work or the ministers of Grace Church, past and present, that we are able to celebrate its 100th anniversary today,  we would like to remember each of them, by name,  who served so well during the past 100 years and extend to them our heartfelt prayers of thanksgiving.   From the beginning in 1905 they were Reverend Jabez Scott, Reverend A. F. Chamberlain, Reverend Rufus S. Putney,   Reverend M. L. Wolcott,  Reverend C. I. Wallace,  Reverend C. W. Severance,  Reverend  Roy M.. Terry, Reverend Henry Medd, Reverend Kenneth G. Richards with the following associate pastors, Reverend John Bardsley, Reverend Earle R. Custer.

 

Later followed by Reverend Paul L. Sartorio, with the following associates: Reverend Paul Boller, Reverend Leon Kofod and Reverend Clinton Lunt.  Followed by Reverend Arnold Miller, with associate Reverend Sanford C. Stamper.  Followed by Reverend Robert W. Howard with the following associate pastors; Reverend Sanford C. Stamper, Reverend Robert R. Wright, Reverend Max Schwindt, Reverend Stephen Cordes, Reverend Madeline Mc Donald and Reverend Julie Parker. Followed by Reverend John E. Carrington (interim pastor) and our current pastor, Reverend John H. Cole.  And, a special mention to a pastor emeritus from Astoria, adopted by Grace Church, the Reverend Austin Armitstead.

 

Of those ministers who have served Grace Church we are very fortunate to have with us today our current pastor Reverend John Cole and his family,  Reverend Robert Howard and his family, Reverend Dr. John Carrington,  the Reverend Julie Parker, as well as former Diaconal Minister the Reverend Barbara Melzer.  And, of course the Reverend Austin Armitstead and Bianca Armitstead. To you all, Grace Church thanks you!

 

Some comments about the afternoon=s activities which will last from 3:00 - 6:00 PM.  They will consist of a meal, the main part of which you should be eating before 4:00 PM.  There will also be some talking, at different times, including a special candle lighting ceremony to commemorate Grace Church=s  first 100 years.  But, there will be twice as much music as speaking provided by Tom Wagner and his superlative orchestra who will play for your dancing and listening pleasure throughout the afternoon.  It will definitely be the ABig Band@ sound.  But, Tom also has some other surprises.  So, we hope you brought your favorite dancing shoes.

 

When I=m done in a few minutes there will be a 30 minute dance interlude, as well as three other dance interludes featuring the band as well as guitar music during dinner.  We will all sing at three different times.  First will be "Amazing Grace," then "Happy Anniversary," then George Simmons hymn the "The Church Endures."  Words and music are on each table.

 

We will also hear some brief comments from several speakers while we enjoy our dessert. Our lay leader Bob DiSalvo, Mayor Ed Cahill, former Pastor Robert W. Howard, and our current pastor, Reverend John H. Cole.

 

But most importantly let us all remember that today is a time for joyous celebration that our church has prospered for 100 years. That it is beginning its second century vital and strong, that it continues to be multi generational, and that its makeup, mirroring the community it serves, is becoming more culturally diverse.

 

Before we enjoy our first dance interlude let me take just about 3 minutes to take us all back in time. To set the scene for the way it was in the beginning.  Back 100 years.  Well, to be exact 99 years, because that was when the first Grace Methodist Episcopal Church building was completed on the corner of South Franklin and Fairview Avenues in Valley Stream.   And the first service held in the fall of 1905.  The 100th anniversary dates back a year earlier to 1904 when the church was first incorporated.

 

Close your eyes and imagine that we are back in 1905, on the day of the first service in the newly completed Church.  It is a Sunday morning and we are standing next to the church on South Franklin Avenue and looking north toward Merrick Road.  As we look two things strike us.  First, it is very quietB there are no airplanes.  It was barely two years earlier that Orville and Wilbur Wright made their historic first flight at Kitty Hawk.  And cars, where are they?  Only a few go by during the whole day.  And, those that do pass at only 8 or 10 miles per hour.  The road traffic consists primarily of men on horses and farm wagons, many with bales of hay and people sitting on them, and of course, people walking.   And, of course there are no power mowers, leaf blowers or power anything.

 

The only noise is the muffled clump, clump of horses hoofs and rolling wooden wheels on the road. Looking down a very narrow Merrick Road, with overhanging tree branches in many places, it in no way looks as it does today.  It=s easy to imagine ourselves on a far away back road in farm country. We are not only in another time, but seem to be in another place.

 

We are suddenly aware that Valley Stream in 1905 was still a farming community.  The northern part of our village is really the tail end of Fosters Meadows, a largely German farming community that stretched up through Elmont and Franklin Square, to the Hempstead Turnpike plank road.  The southern part, south of today=s Sunrise Highway backed up against the back waters of Jamaica Bay.

 

The second sensation is that everything appears so wide open and uncrowded.   There are only scattered houses around and mostly there are fields and wood lots in between..  Looking east on Merrick Road we see the houses of Joseph Felton and Doc Foster, who is just leaving  with his horse and buggy on his way to make a house call.

 

What is now Hendrickson Park across the street, is not a park, but is the Valley Stream Supply Pond, that provides water for Brooklyn and New York City.  There is another such pond to the south at the corner of Mill Road and Roosevelt Avenue. Looking west, past Fletcher Avenue, where Burger King now stands, there is Hattie Miller=s lovely estate, with its meandering stream and Miller=s Pond. There are few sidewalks around, mostly dirt paths and no traffic or street lights anywhere.   Six different streams pass under Merrick Road in Valley Stream, giving real meaning to the village=s name...... Valley Stream. 

 

A flatbed wagon that had traveled from a farm almost a mile north, that faces on Wheeler Avenue, and backs onto what is now Fireman=s Field, pulls up to a halt in front of the new Grace Church.  The farmer and his wife, dressed in their Sunday best, have come to attend the opening day service today, as will their descendants for the next 99 years.  He is Sylvanus, she, Georgianna.  They are the Langdons who own that farm on Wheeler Avenue.  They are also the grandparents of Bert Keller.  Fast forward to today.  So now let us Araise a joyful noise unto the Lord@ to celebrate those 100 years and start by singing “Amazing Grace.”

 

 

(Dick Keidel)

It now gives me great pleasure to introduce one of the hardest working church members I know, our current Lay Leader Bob DiSalvo.

(Bob DiSalvo, Lay Leader of Grace United Methodist Church)

Hello, on behalf of Grace United Methodist Church Valley Stream and its 100th anniversary committee, I’d like to welcome all who have come from far and near to celebrate with us the past one hundred years of faithful service to the Lord. As we enter the next century we all hope and pray that we can continue to be a steadfast home and sturdy foundation for all who seek peace and love in the family of faith.

It is this family of faith through all the generations who have lived, loved, and learned at Grace that we are celebrating here today and all year long. A family that shares all their God-given talents anyway they can, and whom we must be grateful of and thankful for.  Generations of past members and leaders who have given us a sanctuary for the soul to come home to. To all past, present, and future congregants, thank you and welcome home.

Just as we must give thanks to past generations for their service to God at Grace, we must also give thanks to those here today who have given their time with loving hearts and minds so we can join as a family to celebrate. I would like to thank all the members of the 100th anniversary committee who have shared their talents to bring success to all we do at Grace. People like Bruce Beaver, Theresa DiSalvo, Bill and Donna Hartmann, Walter Harrod, Winnie Holden, Richard Keidel, Lenore Kurz, Joan LoBello, Anne Mahoney, Dorothea Munson, Diane Panzarino, Maureen Smyth, and Brian and Janet Stone. But I’d like to remind everyone that our work is not done here today.  We have many other events and celebrations planned, including Palm Sunday prayer at the Firehouse, a family picnic in September at North Woodmere Park, a concert in October highlighting all the musical talent we have among us, to just name a few. I hope we all can join together to praise and enjoy our church home.

    I would like to give a special word of thanks to a couple of artists who have given their gifts to Grace church for years, Betsy Carnes and Donna Hartmann.  Their work can be found, among other places, on the cover and throughout the journal and many of the 100th anniversary items. Some of which by the way, are available here today if you would like to take a piece of Grace home with you. And a big thank you to Bert Keller for providing history, so we can all be reminded of those who have come before us. Thank you to Brian and Janet Stone whose generous hearts and team approach have worked especially well in planning this affair.  Thanks to Will Gamper for recording this day in history forever. 

When we first started planning for this dinner dance over a year ago, we knew we wanted it as special and memorable as possible. And of course, if we were to have a dinner dance, we would need a dance band. Without any hesitation we went directly to our own family member, Tom Wagner. We had asked if he would honor Grace church by performing with his band. Well, his response was overwhelming, I don’t think we could have kept him away. We are all very grateful to Tom and his band for taking us through the decades at Grace, bringing music and dance to us all. And speaking of music, I’d like us all to give thanks to George Simmons who has blessed Grace Church with the ultimate gift of himself, a piece of his heart and soul through the composing of a special hymn dedicated to Grace "The Church Endures." George has been unselfishly giving and sharing his talents though music everyday so that we may sing praises aloud.

I’d like to say thank you and God bless to all the generous sponsors who have donated toward this affair to make it as special as possible, their hearts bursting with love and joy for Grace church. Thank you to the Valley Stream community for supporting Grace through the 100th anniversary journal, and especially to the members of the family of faith at Grace who made the journal possible. Thank you for all your blessings.

All these people, past and present have been brought together under one roof as God has planned it. And through all the years, we have been blessed with the guidance of shepherds, our pastors. I’d like to personally thank all of them present here today for inspiring me and our congregation to becoming disciples of Jesus. Thank you Reverend John Cole, Reverend John Carrington, Reverend Robert Howard, Reverend Julie Parker, Reverend Barbara Meltzer. Thank you all for coming and God bless you all.

 

(Dick Keidel)

   It now gives me great pleasure to introduce the Mayor of the Village of Valley Stream, Mayor Ed Cahill who has three presentations to make to Pastor Cole.

 

(Mayor of the Village of Valley Stream, The Honorable Edward Cahill)

As many of you probably know, just a few years back, the village celebrated its 75th anniversary.  We were properly proud of the accomplishments that the village and its residents have witnessed in that time.

            Grace Methodist, however, has even more history to celebrate. Your church has seen change and growth throughout its proud history. You have opened your doors and your hearts to fellow parishioners and the larger community.  Your physical church began humbly and has evolved and grown into a landmark building in the village.  But as much as the physical structure is a symbol of the church’s devotion and service to God, your church is much more than this building.  It is the fellowship you share.  It is the family that sits in the pew in front.  It is the ministry and leadership of your pastor.  It is the retiree or immigrant who prays beside you. It is the children who offer great promise for the future under the Almighty’s divine plan, and of course it is the faith that lives and grows in your heart and soul.

The lessons taught and shared in your church offer the keys to life -- the belief in family, the respect for fellow human beings and the support of rights for each of our citizens.  In them we can find the guidance and grace, the strength and nourishment to navigate through a turbulent world.

            So, as you move forward into the next millennium of service, may God continue to grant blessing and peace to you, your beloved church and may God bless America.

 

 

 

(Dick Keidel)

It now gives me great pleasure to introduce someone who needs no introduction, at least to this group.  Someone whose tenure as pastor at Grace Church spanned 28% of its existence.  To a whole generation of youth in Grace Church he was the only pastor they ever knew.  Someone who it appears is almost as busy in retirement as when he was pastor, The Reverend Robert Howard.

 

(Former Pastor of Grace Church, Robert W. Howard)

            Well, I’m history… happy history, I hope; maybe even sacred history.  But history nonetheless, the past, gone, over.

 

            In this season of political campaigning, I borrow the strategy of any administration seeking to make its claim on history, how it is to be remembered.  Just so, I have prepared a short list of those achievements you and I managed during the twenty-eight years we worked together for the Lord in this corner of creation.

 

1. We, you and I together, have been and still are a congregation which represents the complexion of the community in which it serves.  There have been tremendous demographic changes on Long Island since the end of the Second World War.  I happened along just as the immigration from Brooklyn and Queens of returning servicemen and their families was running its course.  During that earlier time, under the leadership of Pastor Paul Sartorio, you became the largest Methodist church in the Northeast.  With my arrival in 1973 a new immigration was about to get under way. Grace Church once again met the challenge and welcomed, as any church worthy of Jesus must, the newcomers, many of them from nations around the world, and not just nearby boroughs, into this family of faith.

 

2. We, you and I together, made a solid financial foundation for the church’s future. Thanks to the generosity of a Valley Stream librarian, Mildred Zulch, and the very unexpected largesse from the estate of a LIRR porter, Frank Dunk, the church’s endowment was doubled. Mildred’s gift was used for the installation of the handicapped access ramp to the church. Then over the course of ten or more years the church acquired stock in Hendrickson Bros; and the Trustees, carefully husbanding that stock, realized, as Arthur J Hendrickson once advised me the church would, $1.3 million when the company was sold.  The endowment was increased sevenfold.

 

3. We, you and I together, periodically but carefully changed our style and format of worship to accommodate the changing patterns of the congregation.  Oh my, how we fussed over the proper time of morning worship!  That issue will probably never be happily resolved in many worshiper’s minds.  Women were recruited for the ushering corps.  We bought pew Bibles.  At Norm Schmidt’s behest and with Blanche Fatscher’s kindness, we installed pew cushions in the chapel.  We instituted the Lay Reader program.  For a good while we offered communion in the chapel every Sunday early… a practice to which, I note, you have returned.  We corralled George Simmons to be our Music Director.  Best of all, we incorporated children into the hour of worship, and they added a liveliness too long absent from the sacred hour. 

 

4. We, you and I together, nurtured a new generation of leadership, some of them once children in the Church School, to sail the ship of faith in this new millennium.  Your present Lay Leader, Bob DiSalvo, was a seventeen year old silent king in “Once Upon a Mattress” the year after my arrival in Valley Stream.  Your Finance Committee Chairperson and Trustee, the Associate Lay Leader, Brian Stone, was in 1975 a towheaded basketball sharpshooter on the church team, whose Mom to this day regrets my retirement from the hardwood battles before Brian could get even with me for my wild elbows.  And Eric Bjorneby, just a callow youth in 1973, is now a Grace Church patriarch.

 

Andrew Greeley, a Jesuit and priest and a commentator on many things Christian, observed that God does not call us to be successful; God calls us to be faithful.  Grace Church has had plenty of both, success and faithfulness.  As was your motto in Pastor Paul’s day, friends: “Carry on and keep the faith!”

 

(Dick Keidel)

And, lastly, it again gives me great pleasure to introduce another person who needs no introduction, someone who has found the unique home that can be found at Grace Church. He is the pastor of Grace Church, the Reverend John H. Cole.

(John H. Cole, Pastor of Grace Church)

Some 100th Anniversary parties may look back with thanksgiving at the wonderful accomplishments and memories of the past, but kind of leave it there…  People say, “We have gotten this far and now we can wind down and remember the good old days.”  Some birthdays are that way and even some churches do the same thing - but not our Grace!  Yesterday, we certainly celebrated our past, and thanks to all who worked so hard, it was a wonderful occasion.  But for you who were there and for those of you who were not, let me share a strong feeling I have about this church.  Both yesterday at the Coral House and through out this Anniversary year we are not only celebrating the past but we are anticipating the future.  As Bob Howard put it in his journal message, “You’ve only just begun.”  This Church is building on its past in order to embrace an optimistic future.  Thanks for the memories but thanks too for the next 100 years – the party is just getting started.

 

(Dick Keidel)

As our wonderful 100th anniversary ceremony draws to a close, we will raise our prayers to the almighty who has so wonderfully blessed Grace Church.  It gives me great pleasure to introduce the Rev. Barbara Melzer, Pastor of the Woodbury United Methodist Church and former member and Diaconal Minister at Grace Church, who will give the benediction.

 

(Dick Keidel)

Thank you all for coming and as a community of faith, sharing in our common joy.  And, to those church members yet to be born, who we fervently hope will enjoy a similar celebration 100 years hence to celebrate Grace Church=s second 100 years, we admonish you on that day to Amake a joyful noise unto the Lord, all the earth; break forth into joyous song and sing praises!@  Psalm 98:4

 

And finally.... in 1995 the world famous historian Arthur M. Schlesinger spoke about the 20th century, which, of course, is when 96 of Grace Church=s first 100 years occurred.  Schlesinger said “If future historians recall anything about our century, it will surely be that this was the time when men and women burst their terrestrial bonds and began the adventure of space.”

 

    And, indeed, isn=t that what our religion and all religions of the world are about .... that at some point we will all break our terrestrial bonds and begin the adventure of worlds unknown?

 

    Good day and thank you all for sharing in the joy of Grace Church=s first 100 years.  Now, one last dance.

 

 

 



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