The Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Redeemer of Queens Village, New York (also known as Redeemer Lutheran Church and Nursery School), celebrates the 90th Anniversary of its ministry in October of 2013.
Each month of this year, we will add the next decade of the history of our congregation on our website. We begin this month with the 1920’s. We hope that you will look back each month to read the next addition.
– Paul Kahres
The 1920’s – The Founding Years
It was on June 11, 1923 that a canvass was made by the Reverend Theodore V. Moldenke, a field missionary who was appointed by the New York and New England Synod of the Lutheran Church. After a short length of time, he was able to contact a few Lutherans in Queens, who formed the nucleus for forming a church.
The first Service was held at the home of Reverend George Hartwig at 220-38 93rd Avenue on July 29, 1923. Five adults attended and three children attended Sunday School. An evening Service was also held, and this was at the home of Mrs. Kruse at 89-34 Hollis Court Blvd.
On October 21, 1923, the first congregational meeting was held and it was agreed to name the new church The Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Redeemer of Queens. The name had been suggested by Pastor Hartwig.
In November of 1923 the Sunday School was organized.
On November 30, 1923, at a meeting of the congregation, it was agreed to purchase five lots, costing $5,000 at the corner of 217th Street and 92nd Avenue.
The congregation had already grown to thirty adults and twenty-eight Sunday School children by December, so that it was no longer possible to hold Services in private homes. The congregation was able to secure the use of the two car garage owned by Mr. Walter MacDonald and held its first Service in the garage on December 2, 1923. The first Christmas Service was held in the garage at 9:30 A.M. The Sunday School held its first Christmas celebration at the Dutch Reformed Church on December 27th.
On December 30, 1923, at the request of Pastor Moldenke, a special meeting of the congregation was held at which the congregation voted to incorporate under the Incorporation Law of the State of New York.
Another meeting of the congregation was called in early January 1924, at which time it was decided to build a church and to raise funds to pay for the for the full title of the property. This being accomplished, the congregation applied to the Church Extension Society of the United Lutheran Church to erect a church building.
Also in January 1924, the Sunday School was re-organized and a Young People’s Society was formed.
By February 17, 1924, the foundation for the new church was already completed, and a Service was held to lay the cornerstone. Into the cornerstone were placed a Bible, Luther’s Catechism, a list of the charter members, the names of the Ladies Aid Society, Young People’s Society, Choir, Sunday School, and various other items. Present at the Service were Reverend Samuel B. Trexler DD, President of the New York and New England Synod, Reverend George Hartwig, Reverend J. Berg and Pastor Moldenke. Following the dedication, the congregation walked to the Queens Baptist Church where further ceremonies were held.
Through the Church Extension Society of the United Lutheran Church of the New York and New England Synod, we received a portable church from the Lutheran Church of the Mediator of Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, whose Pastor, Reverend Kleft, became our assistant pastor. The church was moved, erected on our present foundation, and the first Service was held on April 6, 1924.
At a Service lead by Synod President Reverend Samuel B. Trexler, on Pentecost Sunday, at 2:45 PM on June 8, 1924, the church was officially dedicated.
In addition to Redeemer, Pastor Moldenke had been conducting Services at three other Lutheran Churches. By the summer of 1924, Pastor Moldenke’s health began to fail and he requested that he be relieved of his duties as our pastor.
On November 12, 1924, the Reverend Henry Knabenshuh was called to be the next pastor of Redeemer. Pastor Moldenke preached his last sermon at Redeemer on November 23rd and Pastor Knabenshuh preached his first on November 30th. At a special meeting of the congregation, we voted to notify the Lutheran Mission Board that we were ready to be self-supporting.
On August 24, 1925, Boy Scout Troop 4 was organized at Redeemer with Pastor Knabenshuh as Scoutmaster.
In the fall of 1925 the congregation agreed to build a parsonage at a cost of $12,000. Work began in the spring of 1926.
In 1927 the Girl Scouts were organized as Troop 14.
Under Pastor Knabenshuh’s leadership, many improvements were made, and the church was recognized in Queens Village as a thriving and active congregation. Ill health caused Pastor Knabenshuh to tender his resignation on May 19, 1928.
The congregation was without its own pastor briefly until Reverend Paul Beard was called as the third pastor of Redeemer on September 1, 1928.
The auditorium was built in 1929 at a cost of $15,000. A drive was made to collect funds and $5,500 was raised. This left us with a large debt as the Great Depression began in the United States.
The 1930’s – Growth During the Great Depression
During the 1930’s, the congregation continued to grow and improvements continued on the building.
During 1937 Pastor Beard’s health began to decline, and as such, tendered his resignation. On October 30, 1937, Pastor Beard preached his last sermon at Redeemer.
Our pastoral vacancy was again short. Early in 1938 the congregation interviewed, and issued a call to a senior seminary student at the Hartwick Theological Seminary, Mr. J. Edward Vesper. Mr. Vesper preached at our Services beginning in June 1938. He was ordained on November 13, 1938. On November 16, 1938 Pastor Vesper was installed as the fourth pastor at Redeemer by Reverend David Jaxheimer, President of the Long Island Conference. Redeemer would not need to search for another pastor for the next 35 years.
The 1940’s – Debts Paid and the Church Re-modeled
Early in 1940, Mr. Bernard Kruger planned and executed the renovation of the chancel. Mr. Otto Kosel Sr. and Mr. Otto Kosel Jr. installed a new lighting system in the sanctuary. The Ladies Aid Society presented the church with a new Hammond Organ. The dedication and consecration of the new organ and improved church was held on December 8, 1940.
Debts from the building projects of the 1930’s were still with us, however, on February 17, 1944, the Sunday School gave the church a gift of satisfying the second mortgage held on the church.
In June 1945 a drive was begun to raise $10,000 to retire our remaining mortgage. By July 8, 1946 the goal had been reached and exceeded thanks to the members and friends of the congregation. In September 1946 a special Service was held at which the $10,000 mortgage was burned. President of the United Lutheran Synod of New York, Reverend Dr. Frederick Knubel, was the guest speaker.
On November 21, 1946, a gas heating unit was installed at a cost of $1,176.13, replacing the coal furnace.
When the portable church was erected in 1924, plans had been drawn up to erect a larger church over the large auditorium. At the Annual Congregational Meeting in January 1947, the congregation voted to make improvements on the existing building and not to build a new one. Over the next year and a half, thanks to donations from various members, improved electric lighting was added, new stained glass windows were installed, including the large one in the chancel which was donated by Mr. & Mrs. Harold Henry, and a set of chimes was added to the organ.
By September 1948, the work was done and all were dedicated in time for the celebration of the congregation’s 25th anniversary. A “Silver Anniversary Banquet” was held on October 21, 1948 with Pastor Vesper as toastmaster and Reverend William C. Bennett, Executive Secretary of the Queens Federation of Churches as our guest speaker.
The 1950’s – The Building Expands As Ministries Grow
The Boy Scouting Program expanded at Redeemer in the 1950’s. Cub Pack #158 held its first meeting in the church auditorium in March 1952 with George Roberts as the first Cub Master. The Mothers’ Club of Pack and Troop #158 was formed in May 1952 with Dorothy Roberts as President. The Mothers’ Club added Explorer Post to their title in 1956 when Explorer Post #158 was formed with Richard Kohnken as Advisor.
By 1953 the congregation needed some extra space. It was decided to add a narthex and expand the south wing and to re-model the small auditorium, kitchen and bathrooms. A Building Fund Committee was formed to canvass members for pledges to raise the estimated cost of $40,000. Work was begun late in 1955 and completed in 1956. The original 1923 cornerstone is now inside of the building and one for 1955 was added to the exterior of the new narthex. When all of the renovations were complete, the cost had exceeded $90,000.
In June of 1957, the congregation adopted the Sector Plan. The purpose of the plan was to visit all members of the congregation to discuss their responsibility as to church attendance, affiliation with organizations within the church, service to the church and financial support. Under the chairmanship of John Kohnken, the program was a tremendous success.
In June 1958, Redeemer participated in the first annual Anniversary Day Parade in Queens. The parade, commemorating the first Sunday School on Long Island, became a regular event. The churches of Queens Village marched in Christian unity for many years, with each church making a float, with prize ribbons were awarded to the best entries.
The Ladies Aid Society had put on an annual bazaar to raise funds for the church each year. In 1958, the congregation voted to make the Annual Bazaar at church-wide event with all of Redeemer’s organizations participating.
In 1959 a new Baptismal Font was donated by Carl Lummel and a new flag pole was donated by Bernard Kruger.
The same year, the first Annual Men’s Communion Breakfast was held in the church auditorium, with the Ladies Aid Society preparing the meal.
The 1960’s – Continued Growth of Ministries
In the summer of 1960, Redeemer received a 50 star flag that had flown over the White House on July 4, 1960. The flag proudly adorned our own flagpole for several years.
On October 23, 1960 a ceremony was held in which the mortgage for $90,000 from the building projects of the mid 1950’s, was burned.
Several new church organizations were formed in the 1960’s, the first being the Altar Guild in September 1961. Elsa Weingartner was the first Directress.
A plaque bearing the names of three stewards of the church – Bernard Kruger, Albert Mattern and John Garlich, was dedicated in October 1961.
On September 30, 1962 the Mr. and Mrs. Club held its first meeting with Walter and Marion Winkelstern serving as the first co-Presidents.
In October of 1963, the congregation celebrated our 40th Anniversary. At the same time, we celebrated the 25th Anniversary of Pastor Vesper’s ordination and ministry with Redeemer. The congregation presented Pastor Vesper with a trip to Europe and the Holy Land.
During the years 1963-1964, Richard Eilers, a ministerial student, performed the duties of Assistant Pastor, Advisor to the Luther League, and Sunday School teacher.
On October 9, 1965, Pastor Vesper married Dorothy Horvath in a ceremony in the sanctuary. A reception was held following the Service in the church auditorium.
In the summer of 1967 the next remodeling of the sanctuary took place. The dark wood paneling on the walls and ceiling were replaced with lighter tan paneling and white ceiling tiles. The congregation worshipped in the auditorium while the work was being completed, which it was by September.
In April of 1968, Anna Grote donated the funds, and Walter Winkelstern carried out the task, of creating a new altar for the chancel. A special Service was held to dedicate it. This hand-crafted work of art is still in use.
The last year of the 1960’s saw three new organizations at Redeemer.
The Junior Choir was formed, and made its debut, in September 1969 under the directorship of Paul Kahres and Janet Landherr with Constance Burbach as accompanist.
Representatives of the Queens Village Friendship Club, an organization for senior citizens, approached Pastor Vesper with a request to use the auditoriums for their weekly meetings. The Church Council approved, and the QVFC began holding their meetings at Redeemer in October 1969.
That same month, the Women of Redeemer held their first meeting. Their first task was to plan a Communion Breakfast for the ladies of the church. The first Women’s Communion Breakfast was held on November 30, 1969.
The 1970’s – Tragedy, Celebration and Innovation
In 1970 members began taking a more active role in the leadership of the worship service. A Lay Celebrant (later Lay Assistant, presently Assisting Minister) assisted the pastor in the distribution of the Lord’s Supper. The role of the Lay Celebrant would increase over time.
In June 1970, a much needed air-conditioning system was installed in the sanctuary, thanks to funds received through the legacy of Henry L. Denzler. Mr. Denzler was a benefactor of the congregation and also a close friend of the Vesper family. A plaque in Mr. Denzler’s memory was placed in the sanctuary.
In 1970, the Luther League at Redeemer changed its name to the Young Christian Society to welcome teenagers of other Christian faiths. Richard and Mary Jungdahl served as the first Advisors to the group. In September 1970, the YCS published the first edition of The Enlightener. The monthly newsletter was to supplement the Redeemer Monthly published by the church office with news about the members and friends of the church. Both papers would eventually be combined with Richard Jungdahl serving as editor, and Paul Kahres and Mark Peterson serving as assistants, for the next twenty-five years.
Also in September 1970 the first Youth Awards were presented to young people who had given outstanding service to Redeemer over several years.
Queens Village celebrated its Centennial in 1971 and our congregation played an active part in planning the celebration. For our efforts we were recognized in the Congressional Record and received a Citation that December.
Explorer Post #158, which had been dormant for several years, was revived by Richard Kohnken who became Advisor. The Explorers would perform many acts of service to the church over the years and provided its members with opportunities for camping and travelling.
A speaker system, donated by the Kosel family, was installed in the sanctuary also in 1971.
To help foster communication amongst the congregation, it was decided to have a Church Directory published with the pictures and contact information for members and friends of Redeemer. Under the leadership of Evelyn Abbes, the directory was begun in October 1971 and completed in the spring of 1972.
At the Annual Congregational Meeting in January 1972, several important changes were approved in our Church Constitution that affected youth.
Up until that time, children received their First Communion on Holy Thursday following their Confirmation the prior Sunday (Palm Sunday). The new Constitution provided that children in the fifth grade of Sunday School would receive instruction from their Sunday School teacher, Pastor, and parents, and be able to receive the Lord’s Supper later in the school year.
The adoption of an amendment to the United States Constitution, lowering the voting age from twenty-one to eighteen, lead Redeemer to follow suit. Paul Kahres was elected to Church Council at the age of nineteen that year.
For many years Redeemer held two Sunday Services at 9:30 and 11:00 a.m. At the Annual Congregational Meeting in January 1972, it was decided to have one Sunday morning worship at 10:30 a.m. With the earlier worship time, it was decided to hold a coffee hour after worship twice a month. Initially, each organization of the church and Scouts took a month of hosting the coffee hours.
Another innovation of 1972 was the first Folk Service lead by the Young Christian Society in September.
With the Congregation’s 50th Anniversary coming up in October 1973, a committee was formed to make plans for the event. The first meeting of the 50th Anniversary Committee was held on May 26, 1972 with Walter and Marion Winkelstern serving as Chairmen. Plans were made for a year of celebration beginning on October 21, 1972 and culminating with the final event on October 21, 1973. When Mr. & Mrs. Winkelstern resigned as chairmen, Henry and Evelyn Abbes accepted the role.
The Kick-Off Celebration on October 21, 1972, included a catered dinner and entertainment. The next event, on December 17, 1972, was a family Christmas Party with a pot luck supper.
The Anniversary celebration continued with Pastor Vesper highlighting the work of a different church organization each month. In April 1973, Mr. Sandor, an artist, portrayed the story of the Crucifixion through his art. On June 10, 1973 a Church Picnic was held at Alley Pond Park.
On Sunday morning August 5, 1973, Pastor Vesper announced after his sermon that he would be going into the hospital for a few tests later that day for a couple of days, but that he would be with us the following Sunday. At 10:00 p.m. that evening, our beloved Pastor Vesper suffered a massive heart attack and died. A Funeral Service was held at Redeemer on the evening of August 8th.
Besides being the 50th Anniversary of the congregation, it was also to be the 35th anniversary of Pastor Vesper’s ordination and ministry at Redeemer. We faced the difficult decision of whether to continue the commemoration of our anniversary in our time of grief. Pastor James Graeffe, President of the Metropolitan New York Synod, LCA, counseled us, and we realized that we could honor Pastor Vesper best by continuing the 50th Anniversary Celebration plans.
The climax of our 50th Anniversary celebration was held as scheduled on October 21, 1973. After a special Worship Service that morning, we removed to Antun’s Restaurant for a luncheon. Father Mulkerin of Our Lady of Lourdes Roman Catholic Church offered the Invocation and Blessing, Synod President Pastor James Graeffe and former Assistant Pastor Richard Eilers were guest speakers. Pastor Vesper’s widow Dorothy was presented with a gift as was Alice Helmke, a charter member of the congregation. The church choir entertained those assembled.
On January 27, 1974, we permanently memorialized Pastor Vesper with a plaque in his honor mounted in the sanctuary.
On April 21, 1974, the Young Christian Society celebrated their 50th Anniversary. The Young People’s Society began in 1924.
After Pastor Vesper’s death, a Call Committee was formed to search for a new pastor. On January 20, 1974, Pastor Wayne Leazer, a candidate for our pastoral vacancy, preached and led us in worship. Following the Service, a Special Congregational Meeting was held at which the congregation voted to issue a call to Pastor Leazer. On March 8, 1974, Pastor Leazer notified us that he had declined our call.
In May 1974 the Call Committee interviewed Pastor Rudolph David and Pastor Joseph Anderson. The committee voted to recommend that the congregation issue a call to Pastor Anderson.
On June 23, 1974, Pastor Anderson preached and led us in worship. Following the Service, a Special Congregational Meeting was held. After a question and answer period with Pastor Anderson, the congregation voted 91 to 3, and youth under eighteen years of age, voted 11 to 1, to call Pastor Anderson to be our next pastor. Pastor Anderson immediately accepted our call.
A family of ten (two adults and eight children) Vietnamese refugees came to Pastor Anderson wishing to be Baptized. After instruction, the family members were all Baptized with twenty members of the congregation serving as sponsors.
The Women of Redeemer planned the Annual Women’s Communion Breakfast for five years. In 1975, it was decided to hold one Annual Communion Breakfast for the whole congregation. Their purpose fulfilled, the Women of Redeemer disbanded in 1975.
Up until 1975 acolytes had been traditionally young men. In October 1975, Linda Von Holten broke that tradition by becoming our first female acolyte.
In the fall of 1976, Redeemer received an offer to donate a used pipe organ. The electronic organ we were using was acquired in 1940. A Special Congregational Meeting was held on November 7, 1976 to consider the offer. After discussion, the congregation voted to decline the offer due to the structural changes that would be needed in the sanctuary. Realizing the need to replace the old organ, the congregation then voted in favor of creating an Organ Fund.
Our Church Constitution always permitted women to serve on Church Council, but none had chosen to stand for election until Evelyn Abbes and Clara Bonekoskey did so. They were elected to Church Council on January 15, 1978.
On February 19, 1978, Pastor Anderson announced that he had accepted a call to become Pastor of Christ Lutheran Church in Little Neck, New York and tendered his resignation effective March 31, 1978.
A Call Committee was formed and interviewed Pastor Thomas G. Olson. On July 23, 1978, Pastor Olson preached and led us in worship. Following the Service, A Special Congregational Meeting was held at which we voted in favor of extending a call to Pastor Olson to become our next pastor. Pastor Olson accepted our call and began his duties on August 15, 1978.
In September 1978, we put away the Service Book and Hymnal we had been using for many years, and began using the new Lutheran Book of Worship.
In November 1979, the Social Ministry Committee, under the Chairmanship of James Afflerbach, began its monthly ministry to the patients at Creedmoor State Hospital. Each month, a group of people from Redeemer would play games with, bring treats for, and entertain the residents. At Christmas, a special party was held and the patients received gifts from our church members.
The 1980’s – More milestones and more building projects
The congregation held a Special Meeting in September 1980 to consider bids for siding the parsonage. The congregation voted in favor of accepting a bid of $6,100 for the work.
On March 31, 1982, a long tradition began when the Christian Education Committee hosted a pot luck supper prior to the Wednesday Evening Lenten Service.
A Special Meeting of the congregation was held in June of 1983 to consider work that would need to be done on our building. It was voted to create a Church Property Fund with a goal of collecting $10,000 in two years.
The 60th Anniversary year of the congregation culminated with a special Anniversary Service of Word and Sacrament with Bishop James Graefe preaching, and a dinner-dance at Koenig’s Restaurant in Floral Park.
Another anniversary was celebrated in October 1984 when Boy Scout Troop #158 celebrated the 50th Anniversary of Scouting at Redeemer. Former Scouts came from various parts of the United States to join with our current Scouts in celebration.
On December 2, 1984, a Special Meeting of the congregation was held to consider the most major building project since 1953. The roof over the large auditorium needed to be replaced as did windows and exit doors throughout the building. The heating system was inefficient with radiators in the auditoriums near the ceiling and the noise in the sanctuary when the heat came up became known as the “anvil chorus”. The costs of these issues seemed overwhelming to the congregation, but Pastor Olson urged us to have faith and face the issues head on. The congregation voted in favor of a three year plan to raise $60,000 to address these issues. The campaign became known as Redeem Redeemer and was chaired by George Grunhoff.
In 1986 Henry and Giesela Postel donated ceiling fans for the sanctuary and Ralph and Dorothy La Pasta solved a problem for us temporarily by donating their organ. Although this organ was the same age and model as the one in use, it had much less wear.
In 1987, Redeemer joined the newly formed Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. In accordance, the Lutheran Church Women (LCW) changed their name to the Women of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (WELCA) in January 1988.
The work done in the Redeem Redeemer Campaign was more expensive than anticipated, and it took a little longer than planned to pay off our loan, but by September 1989, over $75,000 had been raised and the paid loan for the campaign was burned. The Redeem Redeemer campaign was ended and the Church Property Fund was established to have funds on hand for future major building issues.
The 1990’s – 75 Years of Ministry and the birth of our Nursery School
On January 27, 1991, Pastor Olson announced that he had accepted a call to serve as Pastor at Kensington Lutheran Church in Buffalo, New York. A farewell dinner was held for Pastor Olson and his family in March.
In March 1991, a Call Committee was formed and in June interviewed Mr. Jack M. Horner. The Call Committee recommended that the congregation call Mr. Horner. On June 30, 1991, Mr. Horner preached and led us in worship. After the Service, a Special Congregational Meeting was held. After a question and answer period, the congregation voted to issue a call to Mr. Horner to become our next pastor. Mr. Horner immediately accepted our call. He was ordained and installed by Bishop William Lazareth on July 13, 1991. A reception was held following in the church auditorium. On July 14, 1991, Pastor Horner conducted his first worship Service as our new pastor.
In August 1991, modifications were made to allow us to have a free standing altar. Funds were donated by Henry and Giesla Postel for the work and Mr. Postel also did the fine carpentry work needed to affect the change on the altar made by Walter Winkelstern in 1968.
In 1992 a new sign proclaiming Redeemer as “Your Neighborhood Church” was made and erected by Roy Apeland and Eddie Gonzalez. New signs directing people to our church were also installed at several intersections in Queens Village. The sanctuary air-conditioning, which had been inoperable for several years, was resurrected thanks to a gift by Ruth Sandlin. Sophie Schumacher, a former member of the Queens Village Friendship Club, bequeathed $45,342 from her estate to Redeemer.
For the first time a weekly Saturday evening worship Service was added to our schedule. The first Saturday Service was to have been held on June 13, 1993, but the Blizzard of 1993 postponed it to March 20th.
The 70th Anniversary celebration of the congregation was held during 1993. A church picnic was held at Valley Stream State Park in June, a block party in July and a weekend of festivities on October 23rd – 24th. The weekend featured a catered dinner on Saturday and an Anniversary Service of Word and Sacrament with Bishop James Sudbrock as the guest preacher, and a brunch afterwards on Sunday.
Pastor Horner suggested the idea of forming a Christian Nursery School at Redeemer in 1993, and Church Council President David Thomas appointed a Nursery School Study Group chaired by Mary Banyra. The committee finished its work and passed its recommendation on to the Church Council which voted to put the Study Groups plan before the congregation at the Annual Meeting in January 1994. The congregation voted in favor of forming a Nursery School as an important part of our evangelism to the community. The Nursery School was dedicated on September 11, 1994. Alessandra Long was hired as our first teacher. As the school grew over the next several years, Mrs. Long would assume the responsibility of Director.
For the creation of the Nursery School, and to make better use of our space, several changes were made in 1994 to our building. The stage in the large auditorium was removed and replaced by a classroom, which was enlarged by adding the Boy Scout Office to the room and finding other space for the Scouts to store their equipment. In addition, the room which had been used for three through five year old Sunday School students, was no longer needed for that purpose, and so the Church Council Room was moved to the lower level. This allowed for the creation of a church office in the former Council room above it. This change in space has proven very to be very useful in the succeeding years.
Following an additional avenue for evangelism, Pastor Horner, with the approval of the Church Council and congregation, began holding Spanish language Services in 1995. To support Pastor Horner’s and our efforts, support was received from Synod to send pastor to Guatemala to be immersed in Spanish.
Also in 1995, it was discovered that there was lead paint in the woodwork at the parsonage. By New York City law, the Horner’s had to temporarily vacate the parsonage while work was done to remove the hazard. The congregation expended $15,000 to correct this problem.
The Nursery School continued to grow to the point where there were waiting lists for seats. At the Annual Meeting of the congregation in January 1997, plans for an expansion of the Nursery School space were proposed. The changes would involve expanding the right side of the room (the former Scout office) further into the large auditorium. In addition, the Nursery School/Sunday School Office would be shrunk to allow for more classroom space on the left side of the room. At a Special Congregational Meeting on February 16, 1997, the plans were approved as well as a bid for $13,900 to do the work. The project was funded through donations and the sale of NYNEX stock.
The Spanish Ministry got a boost in 1997 with the addition of Evelyn Avila as a Deaconia Intern. Our ministry to youth in the community was expanded with the addition of Kid’s Club, a weekly afterschool program for kids to do homework, have fun, and to feel God’s love for them. Nafeezah Khan received training through Synod and lead this important ministry for several years. The same year, free English as a second language classes were offered through our Social Ministry Committee.
The congregation had planned for many years to purchase a new organ. Finally, at a Special Meeting of the congregation on June 28, 1998, the purchase of a new Allen Organ was approved. This was one of many events celebrated in our 75th Anniversary year.
The 75th Anniversary year culminated with a Festival Eucharist with Pastor Jack Horner presiding and Bishop of the Metropolitan New York Synod ELCA, Reverend Stephen Bouman, preaching. Following worship, the congregation and guests proceeded downstairs to the auditoriums to enjoy a meal prepared by Donna Frank and her family.
1999 began with sadness for the congregation, but ended with joy and renewal.
On January 5, 1999, Pastor Horner announced to the congregation that he had accepted a call from Resurrection Lutheran Church in Mount Kisco, New York. Redeemer experienced considerable growth under Pastor Horner’s guidance. The congregation held a farewell dinner in Pastor Horner’s honor in February and wished him, and his family, Godspeed.
On August 28, 1999, Church Council President Joan Kahres announced to the congregation that the Call Committee and the Church Council had voted in favor of calling Mrs. Peggy Wuertele to become our next pastor. Mrs. Wuertele was a pastoral candidate from the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia. Mrs. Wuertele preached and led us in worship on Sunday September 12, 1999 after which a Special Meeting of the Congregation was held to consider issuing a call to Mrs. Wuertele. The congregation voted its approval and Mrs. Wuertele immediately accepted our call. She was ordained on September 19, 1999 at a Festival Eucharist of Ordination, along with two of her classmates, at St. Paul’s Evangelical Lutheran Church in Rye Brook, New York by Bishop of the Metropolitan New York Synod ELCA, Reverend Stephen Bouman.
The 2000’s – Our Ministry Continues Into the New Century
In the years 2000 and 2001, our Nursery School suffered a decline in enrollment. The reason for the decline was the advent of the New York City Department of Education program for four year olds called Universal Pre-Kindergarten. This free program was put in some elementary schools, but due to lack of space, existing nursery schools were invited to apply as satellite sites. The congregation wrestled with the decision as to whether Redeemer should apply. On the one hand, enrollment and funding would go up. On the other hand, as a part of the public school system, we would no longer be able to teach the children about Jesus. At a Special Congregational Meeting held on June 3, 2001, the congregation voted in favor of applying for UPK. It was felt that we would still be doing outreach to an increased number of children and their families. We would maintain a private nursery school class for three year olds. In succeeding years, the Nursery School children would be invited to join our Sunday School for Halloween and Christmas parties and Easter egg hunts. The children and their older siblings, were invited to participate in Kid’s Club.
Another Special Congregational Meeting was held on July 29, 2001 for the purpose of considering renovations to the Ladies Restroom. The Property Committee’s plans were approved and the room received a major make-over.
In the fall of 2001 it was decided to end our Spanish Saturday Evening Worship Services. When the Spanish Ministry was begun, there were many people of Hispanic background moving into Queens Village. In the six years since it was begun, families from many other backgrounds moved into the neighborhood and the demographics changed.
In 2003 the congregation marked its 80th anniversary. By 2003 some of Redeemer’s organizations like WELCA, the Ladies Aid Society and the Young Christian Society no longer existed. The Annual Bazaar was no longer held. New opportunities for worship, fellowship and Christian education were introduced with weekly Wednesday Evening Vespers and Bible Study, Summer Day Camp, Summer Sunday Potluck suppers, Summer Festivals and Church Picnics.
The congregation celebrated Pastor Wurtele’s 5th Anniversary of Ordination with her in September 2004 with a festive dinner at church. The occasion was also used to launch the beginning of a major Capital Campaign to raise funds for renovations to the building.
On June 26, 2005, Pastor Wuertele resigned as our pastor in order to accept a call with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. The congregation bid farewell to Pastor Wuertele and her husband Fred, with a farewell pot luck supper.
In September 2005, the Metropolitan New York Synod made available to Redeemer, Mrs. Sarah Peter Geddada, on a special call, to serve as our interim pastor until the congregation called a pastor through the normal process. The congregation accepted the offer and called Mrs. Geddada as interim pastor.
On November 19, 2005, Mrs. Geddada was ordained as a pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. The Service or Ordination was held at Redeemer Lutheran Church and led by Bishop Stephen Bouman, Bishop of the Metropolitan New York Synod ELCA. A fellowship dinner was held following the Service.
Part of the Capital Campaign begun in 2004, was to be the purchase of a new electronic sign for our church to replace the old one on the front lawn that used hanging letters. The Evangelism Committee, under the chairmanship of Brian Singh, began researching possibilities beginning in 2005. On April 30, 2006, a Special Meeting of the Congregation was held at which time the congregation voted in favor of the proposal and a bid for $5,395.00.
At the end of the year, Pastor Geddada submitted her resignation as Interim Pastor effective December 31, 2006.
During 2007 worship was conducted by several supply pastors, especially Pastor John Graepel. Several members of the congregation also led us in worship and in preaching during this year. Pastor Norman White was assigned by Synod to work with the Church Council and also to meet the needs of the congregation.
On January 24, 2008, the Church Council met with Vicar Mark Erson to consider accepting Redeemer as his pastoral internship site, during which time he would perform the duties that a pastor would. At the end of the year’s internship, the congregation could consider a call to Vicar Erson. The Church Council and Vicar Erson accepted the internship agreement.
During 2008 the congregation experienced major expenses in first replacing the furnace in the parsonage, and later replacing the furnace for the church building. These expenditures required borrowing from the Mission Investment Fund of the ELCA. As a consequence, it was decided not to pursue the purchase of the new sign for the front lawn.
In October 2008, Redeemer celebrated the 85th Anniversary of the founding of the congregation. A special dinner was held for the occasion, and Paul Kahres summarized the history of the church, along with pictures in a PowerPoint presentation, created by Pastor Erson. The congregation enjoyed viewing the pictures normally stored in the archives.
On March 29, 2009, a Special Meeting of the Congregation was held to consider calling Vicar Mark Erson to be our next pastor. The congregation voted unanimously to call Vicar Erson on a Term Call of two years. At the end of the term, Pastor Erson and the congregation would decide on extending the call.
Vicar Erson was ordained at Saint Peter’s Church in Manhattan by Bishop Robert Alan Rimbo of the Metropolitan New York Synod ELCA on April 24, 2009 – appropriately, the eve of Saint Mark’s Day. Many members of the congregation travelled to Manhattan to attend and participate in, the Service of Ordination. Pastor Mark Erson was installed as Pastor at Redeemer Lutheran Church on September 12, 2009 with Bishop Rimbo presiding and Pastor Amandus J. Derr preaching.
The 2010’s – Reaching 90 Years Old and Looking Beyond
The Unites States Census Reports for 2010 showed that Queens Village was the second most ethnically diverse community in The United States, and the faces at Redeemer continued to mirror that diversity. In 2010 thanks to the efforts of Pastor Erson, the Redeemer web page was launched.
Under Pastor Erson’s leadership, worship attendance and membership increased, partly due to the web page. Despite that, the congregation did experience financial difficulties.
The Capital Campaign of the previous decade did not quite get off of the ground and thus by 2011 an estimated $50,000 in repairs to the building were begging to be done. A Special Congregational Meeting was held on March 20, 2011 at which the congregation voted in favor of taking a loan of $50,000 and spending $13,000 of that money to replace the roof on the parsonage. Unfortunately, we were unable to secure the loan.
In June 2011, Pastor Erson submitted his resignation to accept a call at St. John’s Lutheran Church on Christopher Street in Manhattan at the urging of the Bishop. Pastor Erson’s talents were especially needed at St. John’s and the community it serves.
The Bishop also kept our needs in mind by arranging a special covenant between Redeemer, Saint Peter’s Lutheran Church in Manhattan, and the Metropolitan New York Synod ELCA. This brought to Redeemer Pastor Kevin O’Hara who was to be our pastor for two years, after which time a formal call could be offered. Pastor O’Hara was paid by Saint Peter’s through a grant from the Lily Fellowship. With this arrangement, the congregation’s financial position improved greatly and the Church Council directed that excess funds be put into reserves.
Since 2012, the Redeemer web page has been enhanced and updated, through the efforts of Sujie Tiger Wang’s talents.
Pastor O’Hara decided not to fulfill the second year of his covenant with us and submitted his resignation. For awhile, Pastor Tina Reyes lead us in worship as she awaited a call in Sparta, New Jersey. Following this, the Synod assigned Pastor Marianne Tomecek to work with the congregation to help strengthen our leadership as we prepare to call our next pastor. Pastor Tomecek is leading the congregation through the 90th Anniversary year.
Hurricane Sandy, in the fall of 2012, forced the issue on the roof repairs to both the parsonage and the church building. In the spring of 2013 new roofs were placed on both, and the long awaited repaving of the sidewalk on 92nd Avenue was also taken care of.
The Congregation celebrated the 90th Anniversary of our founding with a special Service of Word and Sacrament was held on October 13, 2013, with Pastor Tomecek presiding and Bishop Robert Rimbo of the Metropolitan New York Synod, ELCA preaching the Sermon. On October 26, 2013 a festive dinner was held at the Plattduetsche Restaurant in Franklin Square.