By Ivan Pereira
The House of Hope Presbyterian Church has seen the best and worst of times in its 70-year-history, but the one thing congregants and leaders of the Bellerose institution said has remain stable is their sense of community.
Nearly 70 past and present members of the church gathered at Koenig’s Restaurant in Floral Park Saturday to look back at its history and accomplishments. The Rev. David Schult, who has been pastor of the church since 1969, said he was amazed at how the church has enlightened people who have not only come to services, but also for its other offerings.
“We’ve seen people who have been away and moved to other places, but they took the spirit with them,” he said.
The church, at 84-54 248th St., was founded in 1940 and a year later the building was constructed and amassed a large number of congregants. After World War II ended, many families moved into the neighborhood, which increased the size of the congregation.
Paul Gromlich, 73, of Bellerose, who has been attending the church ever since he was 5, said he has always felt welcomed and spiritualized when he attends Sunday service.
“The church was always the nucleus in the community,” he said.
During the 1960s and ’70s, House of Hope expanded that spiritual circle by reaching out to other Christian faiths. The Bellerose institution has held study groups that focused on analyzing the similarities between Catholic and Lutheran beliefs and has offered Bible study classes and camps for youngsters.
The church also offered its space for non-religious programs as well. The Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts of America hold their meetings there and the church offers an Alcoholics Anonymous program.
State Sen. Frank Padavan (R-Bellerose), who attended the luncheon, said dozens of Queens residents have benefited from House of Hope’s generosity.
“They go beyond the boundaries of their own congregation in working on issues that affect the entire community,” he said.
Over the last two decades, the church has seen a new group of congregants who have immigrated to the neighborhood from areas such as Pakistan and Latin America, according to Schult. The pastor said the new worshipers have added a new sense of diversity to the church and they have been greeted with open arms with some of the older congregants.
“It’s the Christian values of brotherhood,” he said.
Despite the new faces, the church has been having problems with the declining number of members and finances. Nevertheless, Schult said the congregants have been moving along and their sense of community has not diminished.
Yvonne Armstrong, the elder of the Presbytery of New York City, the regional governing body, acknowledged the church’s sense of togetherness and said she felt reassured that it will continue to thrive.
“I hope you can continue to be steadfast so that in 70 years your grandchildren … can continue to be beacons of hope in the community,” Armstrong said.
Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-260-4546.