The Reformed Church of Newtown
Reformed Church of Newtown Complex
Reformed Church of Newtown
|Location||8515 Broadway, New York, New York|
|Area||1.5 acres (0.61 ha)|
|Architectural style||Greek Revival, Vernacular Greek Revival|
|NRHP Reference #|||
|Added to NRHP||April 23, 1980|
|Designated NYCL||July 19, 1966|
The Reformed Church of Newtown is a historic Reformed church located in the Elmhurst neighborhood of Queens, New York. The church was first established by Dutch immigrants in 1731. The neighborhood had been established in 1652 by the Dutch as Middenburgh, a village suburb of New Amsterdam (i.e., New York City). After the English took over the Dutch colony of New Netherland in 1664, the village was renamed New Town, later simplified to Newtown. When Newtown was renamed Elmhurst in the late 1890s, the church retained its original name, a name still also carried by the local high school and subway station.
The Reformed Church of Newtown is a congregation in the Queens classis of the New York regional synod of the Reformed Church in America (RCA). Founded in 1628, the Reformed Church of America is the oldest Protestant Christian denomination in the United States.
The church building
The original Federal-Greek Revival style building, completed in 1735, had survived the struggles of the colonial days and the disruptions of the American Revolutionary War (during which the British seized it for use as an armory). It was replaced in 1832 by the present sanctuary, which is a designated landmark building. The cornerstone of the original building can still be seen in the foundation of its present structure. The sanctuary and adjoining fellowship hall are, as noted by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission, "one of the few all wood church groups remaining in the City."
As the needs of the church and community changed, staffing was increased, structural improvements were made, and the preaching shifted from Dutch to English. In 1956, for its 225th anniversary, President Dwight D. Eisenhower visited the church. For this occasion, the Reverend A. Nelson Doak compiled a brief history of the parish and ended by saying, "May her doors never be shut. Keep them wide open with a welcome to all humanity: saints and sinners, rich and poor, black, brown, yellow, and white," referring to the different ethnic groups in Elmhurst.
In 1980, as Elmhurst was changing complexion, Rev. Doak's hope for Newtown Church began to be fulfilled. His successor, the Rev. David Boyce, perceiving the changing needs of the community, initiated a worship service for Taiwanese immigrants and later another service for the increasing population of Tamil-speaking Indians in the area.
The originally Dutch church now had services in English, Taiwanese, and Tamil. The Tamil ministry was sadly crippled by the untimely death of their minister, the Rev. Paul Theodore, but some Tamil members incorporated themselves into the English service and remained with the congregation. Meanwhile, the Taiwanese ministry, led by a dynamic and multilingual pastor, the Rev. Bill H.C. Lee, soon outnumbered Newtown's Caucasian congregants, as the membership more than doubled from 1981 to 1982. The Taiwanese had entered in, not as a distinct congregation, but as an additional ministry under the authority of Newtown's leadership. As full members, they voted and soon obtained seats on the church's consistory. Although there can technically be only one “senior pastor” in an RCA parish, Pastor Boyce, recognizing the unique circumstances of the day, had innovatively elevated Lee to be an equal “co-pastor” with him.
In 1995, Newtown reached wider still, when the Rev. David K.T. Su, who was being groomed to succeed the aging Rev. Lee, instituted a third worship service in Mandarin Chinese, the lingua franca of the Chinese world. Efforts by the church to fulfill the Scriptural call to be "a house of prayer for all peoples" have thus resulted in a Taiwanese service, a Mandarin service, and a multi-cultural English service—in which Asians, Latinos, and Caucasian Americans worship together—being held each Sunday. At the present time, the Taiwanese and Mandarin-speaking Chinese in the congregation are both ministered to by the Rev. David Su and the Rev. Dr. Tien-Heng Chiu, and the English-speaking congregants are led by the Rev. Chris Koch.
The Reformed Church of Newtown has also produced several ministers for the Reformed Church of America in recent decades: the Rev. I. Douglas Estella (ordained 1986) and the Rev. Ben Lin (ordained 1997), both sons of Newtown Church.
- National Park Service (2009-03-13). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service.
- Kleiman, Dena "Immigrants Spur Renaissance for Queens Churches; A New Melting Pot: The City in the 80's A series of articles appearing periodically." New York Times (1857-Current file). New York, N.Y.: November 15, 1982. pg. B1, 2. http://search.proquest.com/docview/122066603 (subscription).
- Peterson, Iver "Battle Looms on Landmarked Churches; Preservationists Fear Charter Changes Will Undercut the Law Battle Looms Over Landmarking Church Properties" New York Times (1857-Current file). New York, N.Y.: December 3, 1989. pg. R1, 2.
- "225th marked by Queens church." Publication title: New York Times (1857-Current file). New York, N.Y.: Dec 3, 1956. pg. 34, 1 pgs. ISSN 0362-4331.
- Virginia Kurshan; Joan R. Olshansky & Elizabeth Spencer-Ralph (September 1979). "National Register of Historic Places Registration: Reformed Church of Newtown Complex". New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. Retrieved 2011-01-12. See also: "Accompanying five photos".
- Kleiman, Dena "A Surge of Immigrants Alters New York's Face." New York Times (1857-Current file). New York, N.Y.: September 27, 1982. pg. A1, 2.
- The Reformed Church of Newtown official website