All Saints Episcopal Church holding free community concert and new food insecurity project

All Saints Episcopal Church
Photo source: All Saints Episcopal Church

The All Saints Episcopal Church in Bayside will be beginning its 130th anniversary celebration with a free community concert and a new food insecurity program. The outdoor concert is set to take place in the churchyard at 214-35 4oth Ave. on June 4 at 6 p.m.

Local musician “Major Tom” Espenshade and Friends will be performing during the concert. They’ll be performing songs from Jim Croce, James Taylor and Jimmy Buffet. Attendees are encouraged to bring donations of shelf-stable food and dry goods to the event for another new community project, the All Saints Blessing Box, to help combat food insecurity locally.

Blessing boxes are anonymous donation sites stocked with non-perishable foods and other items. All Saints church members are in the process of constructing the blessing box structure. The church, located on the corner of 40th Avenue and 214th Street, hopes to have the stocked cabinet placed outside by early July.

All Saints Episcopal Church
Photo courtesy of All Saints Episcopal Church

“As we celebrate our first 130 years and consider our next 130 years, we have intentionally chosen to focus on recommitting to our hometown of Bayside and the larger northeast Queens community,” All Saints Episcopal Church Rector Laurence Byrne said. “With everything happening in the world today, with these first two projects, we are hoping to provide for our neighbors by helping to nourish their bodies with food and feed their souls with music.”

All Saints began as a Sunday School organized by The Brotherhood of St. George, a missionary society of St. George’s Church in Flushing, back in the 1860s. Services expanded in 1874 to include lay services conducted by a seminarian, Mr. Van De Water. They then paused when Van De Water became a rector at another church before once again resuming in 1891 under seminarian Mr. St. Clair Hester. He was succeeded by George Bartow, who conducted services until after the church was built. Throughout this period, Mrs. Mangles and Miss Frances Ahles worked to keep the Sunday School running.

Four lots of land were donated in July 1891 for the construction of a church before ground was broken in March 1892. Constructed was completed by October 1893, when it was granted canonical consent by the Bishop of Long Island, the Right Reverend A. N. Littlejohn and given the name All Saints Episcopal Church, on Oct. 3. The first service was held there on Oct. 9, 1893.

All Saints Episcopal Church
All Saints Episcopal Church and rectory (circa 1927). Photo source: All Saints Episcopal Church.

During the Reverend Charles Brown’s tenure as rector from 1911 to 1930, All Saints came into its own as an important community of faith in Bayside. All Saints experienced a period of physical and numerical growth by the early 1940s. A building site was donated in 1941 along with a challenge grant of $10,000 by senior warden William Johns, with many parishioners contributing to the effort to match it. This led to the parish house being built and resulted in Sunday School attendance soaring.

The church thrived throughout the 1950s and ’60s. It underwent its last major building project, an addition to the front of the church, in 1962. This allowed more room for several more pews, a spacious narthex and a balcony.

While the church notes that its numbers aren’t as high today as they were back in the ’50s and ’60s, they note that the parish’s heart remains strong and membership has been growing. All Saints didn’t miss a week of services throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, holding virtual services beginning in March 2020. Now, with the easing of restrictions, more parishioners have been able to return to the comfort of the pews but they still offer the option for people to tune in virtually.