“We're still proudly Lutheran in our theology, but the name change reflects the fact that we're here for the whole neighborhood and city, no matter your background,” he said.
Popovits transformed CrossPoint Community Church in Houston into a creative-minded congregation that doubled in size to 1,300 members. Upon arriving in Rego Park in 2012, he saw a few dozen congregants attending his first Sunday service, and recognized its potential for growth, embracing new technology, and community programs.
Today, there are typically between 60 and 80 congregants at a Sunday service. In the upcoming years, OSNY will unite the boroughs with multi-parish churches, and recently launched an innovative method for leading its children's ministry, OSKids.
“It will be really interactive and multi-sensory, so we'll use video, songs, crafts, and a teaching element, which makes for a unique neighborhood childcare option,” said Christy O'Shoney, communications coordinator for OSNY.
With a history of engaging in philanthropic causes, OSNY plans to donate $5 to City Harvest for every guest that joined them throughout September, and then decided to extend that plan through October.
“We're hoping to raise about $500 for City Harvest over September,” said O’Shoney.
In May, the church donated nearly $900 to City Harvest, and for Hurricane Sandy relief, approximately $30,000 was raised and the church distributed Target gift cards.
O’Shoney and her husband, Daniel, have been regulars since last October, and in addition to her leadership role, he was recently installed as an elder.
“I have been blessed to see OSNY from two sides in both Queens and Manhattan, and it is truly humbling to watch this church grow,” she said.
Another newer member is Rego Park-based musician Blake Flattley, who also serves as director of Worship & Arts.
“I try to guide us through the process of honoring our vast history as part of the Christian Church, yet maintaining a fresh expression artistically,” he said. “I would love to see OSNY continue to serve the community in ways that truly meet people's needs physically, spiritually, and creatively.”
He envisions OSNY as a center for creativity.
“We're already planning a couple events through next year, which will involve new music and art,” Flattley said.
“My husband and I moved here from Houston to be a part of what OSNY is doing in New York,” Flattley's wife, Tara, said. “Having lived in various cities, I found Rego Park in particular to feel like home immediately. I love how history and modern society collide all over this city, and find that it is no different in the church. The beliefs of the church are the same, but they way they demonstrate those beliefs have changed with the community it is in.”
Warren Caldecutt has been a member for 35 years and now maintains the garden.
“My greatest memories include my six children being baptized and confirmed here, and the amazing people who were members and left us when they were called home by the Lord,” he said. “You can’t beat being out on the lawn on a cold December day with 20 or 30 close friends setting up Christmas decorations.
“My vision for the future is to remain a warm, family-oriented, friendly church with all the seats full, visitors enjoying a cup of coffee, and the lawn full of happy and excited kids,” he added. “We’ll talk about politics, jobs, and dreams for the area.”
Rego Park’s 90-year history parallels the church's own past. The Real Good Construction Company was chartered in 1923, and renamed western Forest Hills Rego Park. In 1925, the firm began developing 525 eight-room one-family Colonial frame houses between 63rd Drive and Elliot Avenue after purchasing farm plots.
On May 3, 1926, The Neighborhood Lutheran Church of Rego Park held their first service at the Community Clubhouse on Jupiter Avenue and Wetherole Street, and congregants numbered 73 adults and 35 children.
The first celebration of the Sacrament began in December 1926 at a house on 61-22 Booth Street, which was followed by a move to a storefront on Queens Boulevard near 63rd Drive in 1927 due to an expanding Sunday School.
The Rego Construction Company offered land on 63rd Drive and Wetherole Street, and a modest first chapel was dedicated on August 14, 1927.
Lutheran Church of Our Saviour then acquired land for its second chapel at the southeast corner of the intersection for $15,000 on May 8, 1928. In spring 1931, notable architect Benjamin Braunstein drew preliminary blueprints and Fred Kirchoff continued the work.
Ground was broken on October 25, 1931, by Pastor Kuechle, and on February 28, 1932, congregants attended the dedication of a second chapel, admired for its expanded accommodations and Colonial style.