By Christina Santucci
Apostle Dr. John H. Boyd’s legacy will live on long into the future in the Cambria Heights community where his ministry first began, his family and community leaders believe.
“Fifty years from now a young man will go past this street and ask his mother, ‘Mommy, who was Apostle John Boyd?’ That mother will tell him what a great and wonderful man he was and maybe that will make for a follow-up of Apostle Boyd,” state Assemblyman William Scarborough (D-Jamaica) told a crowd of several hundred gathered to see the corner of Linden Boulevard and 219th Street co-named for Boyd Saturday afternoon.
“For his name to live on forever in this community on a street sign, there are no words,” said Boyd’s son, Pastor John H. Boyd II. “It was always about making life better for the people in this community,”
Boyd’s New Greater Bethel Ministries started in a small brown canvas tent that the late church leader set up at the corner of Linden and Francis Lewis boulevards in 1972.
“I was 16 years old. I didn’t understand what in the world he was doing,” said his son, who has since taken over the church.
The congregation quickly grew to more than 2,000 members, and in 1975 the church acquired the Cambria Heights theater complex, which now serves as a school run by the ministry. The church also runs a food pantry, soup kitchen and 24-hour prayer phone line.
“John Boyd’s voice went around the world,” said the Rev. Charles Norris about the minister’s Voice of Bethel radio broadcast, which officials believe reached almost 150 million listeners each week.
Tributes to the late church leader were given by elected officials, including U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-Jamaica), City Comptroller John Liu, state Assemblywomen Barbara Clark (D-Queens Village) and Vivian Cook (D-Jamaica), Scarborough, and City Councilmen Ruben Wills (D-Jamaica) and Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans), who hosted the weekend event.
“Apostle Boyd was about teaching and about economic development. He was teaching other people to be ministers,” Comrie said. “He was about acquiring property to make sure that the church could be self-sufficient.”
Comrie said Boyd’s ministry had owned a lot on Linden Boulevard where the Cambria Heights branch of Queens is now built, and former Councilman Archie Spigner had facilitated a deal so that the city could acquire the land.
Clark recalled trying to organize an overnight vigil in Roy Wilkins Park to raise money for cancer research.
“I see this tent, and I said, ‘Wait a minute. There is a tent in here. We didn’t ask for that,’ and I was told that’s Rev. Boyd’s tent,” she joked. “He’s in our spot, but it’s Rev. Boyd so we are going to have to move and go someplace else.”
Clark praised Boyd’s impact on Linden Boulevard, his work with prison inmates and outreach to patients at the Coler-Goldwater Specialty Hospital & Nursing Facility on Roosevelt Island.
Liu told the crowd that the ministry was left in good hands.
“The saying goes, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. That certainly has been the case with our Pastor John Boyd,” he said. “I think he is creating his own legacy as well.”
A native of Bracey, Va., Boyd studied at the Manhattan Bible Institute and received his doctor of divinity from the United Christian College. Boyd and his wife, Mother Margie Boyd, had five children together, who all work in the ministry. He died in July 2012 at the age of 85.
“I want to thank all of you for remembering a part of my brother’s dream and my brother’s life,” said Boyd’s sister Dr. Cindy Boyd-Hazel, who spoke about how her brother encouraged his six siblings. “He worked with us and let us know we could be whatever we wanted to be.”
Reach Managing Editor Christina Santucci by phone at 718-260-4589 or by email at [email protected].