The Button Story
In January of 1962, Mr. & Mrs. E. Gordon Beardsley and Mr. & Mrs. William Fahlbusch of Massapequa visited their former church, Flatlands Dutch Reformed in Brooklyn. While there, they spoke of missing the church and how they wished they could come back.
Mrs. Beardsley found a button on the floor and gave it to Rev. Stanley Slingerland, pastor of the church. He asked just what he should do with it. Mrs. Beardsley jokingly said he should build a suit around it. Rev. Slingerland gave the button back and said, “Why don’t you build a church around this button?” And this is how Massapequa Reformed Church was started.
Following their meeting with Rev. Slingerland things quickly began unfolding. Rev. Slingerland volunteered to contact the Rev. Dr. Neevel, Field Secretary of the Particular Synod of New York. Rev. Harry Hall, pastor of the Levittown Community Church and the Chairman of the Church Extension Committee, came to Massapequa with Rev. Dr. Neevel the following week to discuss the possibility of establishing a Reformed Church in Massapequa. Several ministers from the Classis met with E. Gordon Beardsley on various occasions. A meeting of interested people was then held at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Fahlbusch in April with Rev. Hall presiding. At this meeting Rev. Hall gave an explanation of what the Reformed Church would do to help establish a new church. A decision was made to approach the Comity Committee of Nassau County to obtain their approval to establish a church in Massapequa.
In the meantime, approval was received to use the Unqua School in Massapequa. These worship services were conducted by various ministers of the Classis of Nassau-Suffolk. In October we learned we could no longer use Unqua School and found a new facility to house the new Massapequa Reformed Church Mission at the American Legion Hall on Brooklyn Avenue in Massapequa opposite the L.I.R.R. station. The interim pastor was Rev. Robert Spencer. The services were held at 11:00AM with a Sunday School held at the same time. Members would arrive early and spray with fragrant deodorant spray to kill the smell of tobacco, alcohol and smoke and air it out so to speak before services each week. The picture of President John F. Kennedy was taken down temporarily and a picture of Jesus replaced it during services.
In November of 1962 the parsonage at 68 West Shore Drive was purchased. The first Massapequa Reformed Church Christmas Eve Candlelight Service and Church School Pageant were held at the newly purchased manse…no furniture…only borrowed chairs. A church supper followed. What a wonderful Christmas celebration! These dedicated people with vision, strength and courage had made their dream of a Reformed Church in Massapequa a reality…less than a year from their first inquiries. We were on our way!
Rev. Donald Baird was called to be our first pastor in January of 1963 and he and his family moved into the parsonage. Rev. Baird and his family (wife Christine and children Donna, Debra & Robert) were a wonderful addition to the group. Pastor Baird came from Philmont, New York, where he had been a pastor for five years. He attended Hope College in Holland, Michigan and received his Bachelor of Divinity Degree at New Brunswick Theological Seminary in New Jersey. The Bairds were honored at a reception attended by sixty-six people on January 13th at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Godfrey Bellavigna.
Calvary Baptist Church in Amityville graciously invited us to worship at their church on Maundy Thursday in 1963. Easter Sunday marked the last time the congregation held its worship service and church school in the temporary quarters at the American Legion Hall.
In the early months of 1963 the church bought the Fraser property and house located on the northwest corner of Merrick Road and Ocean Avenue across from what was formerly called the Massapequa State Park and Lake, at a cost of $65,000. The Georgian-style home that now houses our Nursery School and church school was used as a sanctuary and Education building until the plans and dreams of building a new sanctuary in the lot next to the building could become a reality. The smaller building behind the Fraser house on the same property was also used for Sunday School. The Property Committee under the direction of Dick Nahodyl began at once putting the building into order for Church classes and worship. A friend of a church member built and donated a Pulpit. The New Hyde Park Reformed Church donated a Communion Table and Communion-ware. Offering plates and guest books were also donated. Mr. and Mrs. Edwin Walters left a piano, in good condition, to the congregation. John Valentine erected a sign that stood on the corner of Merrick Road welcoming the community to worship with us. A parking area was prepared by using an old tennis court behind the house.
In January the church’s Youth Group was formed. The first year was very successful and found the youth planning car washes and attending summer conferences, meeting with other churches in the area, etc.
In March of 1963 the church hired our first church organist, Miss Ellen Boykin. Grover Cordts replaced Ms. Boykin in October of 1963.
It was June 2nd of 1963 that the congregation was formally organized with ninety-eight charter members. Mrs. Vernon Nagel was the organist at that very special acceptance service.
In May the Women’s Guild held a shower for the church. People were asked to bring pots and pans, etc. There was also an auction held and the monies used to purchase a deep well sink for the church kitchen.
On June 23rd at a service held at 7:00pm Rev. Donald R. Baird was installed as Minister of Massapequa Reformed Church. The same day there was a service of Dedication of the Educational Building. The church was blessed with many gifts from individuals, churches and church organizations. At the same service the Pastor ordained and installed the new consistory:
Elders: Albert Anderson, Sr., E. Gordon Beardsley, Orville Davidsmeyer, William Eldard, William Fahlbusch, Richard J. Nahodyl
Deacons: John Baker, Godfrey Bellavigna, Edwin G. Kehrt, J. Herbert Nelson, Stanley Sichel, John Valentine, Jr.
It was a different experience to worship in a church that once was a house. You had to make sure you made it to church early so you’d be able to get a seat with a view of the altar area…otherwise you’d only be able to listen to the service.
The first Communicant’s class of our church included Grace Kehrt, Lorie Jean Nahodyl, Joy Sichel, John Nahodyl, John Belanus and Oville Davidsmeyer.
Our first Congregational Meeting was held January 19, 1964.
So this was how our church got its start. Over the years many things have changed and grown. There would be many firsts…first Confirmation Class, First Women’s Guild; first consistory and along the way our church grew. Below are some of the highlights of special moments in Massapequa Reformed Church history.
December 1964 our Church Library was formed with a “Give A Book To Your Church for Christmas” Drive.
Two Worship Services were offered beginning in September 1965, one at 9:30am and an identical one at 11:00am.
July 12, 1966 the church purchased the property adjacent to the church for $31,500. It is a ranch house on a 75 x 210-foot lot. The pastor moved his family into the home during the summer and the parsonage at 68 West Shore was sold for $23,500.
In December of 1966 there were 205 members of our church and growing!
Plans for a New Church
At a special Congregational Meeting on December 3, 1967 plans for a new church building were unanimously approved, to be erected on the church property on the corner of Ocean and Merrick Roads. It would include a sanctuary holding 198 people, choir loft in a balcony, seating 40, a Fellowship Hall, kitchen, PastorÍs Study, and Church Office. It would be connected to the Fraser House, which would be used for Christian Education purposes and would provide off-street parking. The estimate for the building was $145,000. The Architects would be Ryder and Neumann of Smithtown. Needless to say a special building fund drive began. Families were invited to sign a three-year commitment card. The church had hopes of each family committing $2.00 a week over a three-year period in addition to the regular giving to have our goal realized. Also any outright gifts would reduce the amount needed to borrow to cover the outstanding pledges. Memorial gifts were also encouraged. The Williston Park Reformed Church gave a cash donation of over $700. Gifts were also received from the Plainview Reformed Church.
There was a Cornerstone Laying Ceremony on November 24, 1968. A stainless steel box containing important historical documents were placed in the wall directly behind the cornerstone. It included copies of News and Views, a Bible, misc. photographs; copies of local newspapers and the Church Herald; names of charter members and Annual Reports from 1963 to 1967; a copy of the order of worship form the first service in the home of the Fahlbusch’s on 7/1/62 along with the signatures of those who attended; a set of 1968 coins; a 1968 membership list; copies of budgets, etc. But the most unusual item was a button.
At a dedication Service, May 18, 1969, The Rev. Dr. Norman Vincent Peale was the guest preacher. Dr. Peale was a well-known minister from Marble Collegiate Church in Manhattan and author most easily recognized by his book, “The Power of Positive Thinking.”
The Church Mouse
The Church Mouse was the little antique and collectible shop in the back of the church in what is now an apartment and storage but originally the Fraser House garage. It was run by Jean Bellavigna who named it “The Church Mouse,” and Ina Valentine.
Opening a shop of this type required no money out of their pockets as they would deal solely on consignment. They borrowed $100 from the church for paint, wood for shelves and vinyl floor tiles to cover the thick grease which dropped form the vintage cars owned by the Fraser’s. Labor was very cheap at the time…they used their husbands, Godfrey and John, did all the manual labor needed while Joan and Ina wielded paintbrushes.
They would spend Tuesday mornings (trash pick up day) scouring the nearby neighborhoods for merchandise for their shop. Surprisingly they found many treasures including four signed Tiffany lampshades. Some of the treasures taken in were a 50 year old Scotch wedding jacket complete with tartan kilt and ruffled neckwear, an antique baby doll with wicker doll carriage, an original framed Maxfield Parish print from 1935, an antique wedding veil which trailed 14 feet and a wicker turn-of-the-century dress form with a bustle!
Through the wonderful 14 years it was in existence there were 11 salespersons and the Church Mouse earned over $50,000 for the church. Consistory had given them one year to make it a success or to close it down. This certainly was an example of Stewardship in action and what faith and vision can do!
New Steeple Erected
The chimes were purchased in memory of Evy Haug, first woman Elder of the church, through contributions from her family and friends.
The Steeple, containing the chimes, was a gift by Mr. and Mrs. Edwin Kehrt, also in memory of Evy Haug.
Ed Paul chaired the hard working commission responsible for the very ambitious building program. In March of 1984 plans were approved for an addition to be put on the church. A library and a friendship room were added and furnished. After the job was done celebration was held on October 14, 1984 to dedicate the new facilities to His honor and His glory and to the service of His mission. A special reception was held in fellowship hall and tours of the new facilities.
On the night of November 12th our church experienced a tragic fire that damaged our sanctuary, fellowship hall, kitchen and hallways. The outpouring of goodwill throughout the whole Massapequa community was overwhelming.
Father Barry of St. Rose of Lima offered us their school auditorium so we could worship without interruption. Also the Community United Methodist Church and the Presbyterian Community Church made space available for special services
In February a group of nine religious organizations joined together to sponsor an Interfaith Community Cake Sale and raised more than $1,700 for the restoration.
In September another community fundraiser was held at St. Rose of Lima. The Park Players presented “There’s No Business Like Show Business.” There was an audience of over 300 people.
The Interfaith Thanksgiving Service Offerings were designated toward the rebuilding of the Massapequa Reformed Church.
On September 30th we held services in our restored sanctuary. Then on October 28th at 4:30 p.m. The Rev. Dr. Arthur Caliandro of the famed Marble Collegiate Church in Manhattan was our guest preacher.
Many other former members and clergy who served our church previously attended also.
Stained Glass Windows Dedicated
The stained glass windows were installed in August, 1997 and were made possible through memorial gifts. They were designed by Mr. Frederick W. Cole and fabricated and installed by the Rohlf’s Studio of Mt. Vernon, New York. Mr. Cole is a Fellow of the British Society of Master Glass Painters. He has created hundreds of windows both here and in the United Kingdom and has been commissioned by the Dean of Canterbury to head the restoration of the 12th and 13th century stained glass windows in the Great Cathedral. The windows depict the following themes: Creation, Noah’s Ark, the Burning Bush, Ten Commandments, the 23rd Psalm, the Nativity, Feeding of the Five Thousand, Crucifixion, Resurrection, Pentecost, Music (Psalm 150) and the RCA Crest.
Our church has had the wonderful blessing of excellent leadership from dedicated clergy who have shepherded us and led us lovingly in our individual as well as corporate spiritual journeys. Each has come with their own special gifts and talents and our church has grown…grown in love…grown in understanding… grown in mission to the community and beyond…grown in size and most especially grown spiritually from their leadership.
Rev. Donald Baird – 1963-1972
Rev. Daniel Ogden – 1972-1980
Rev. David Dethmers – 1980-1987
Rev. Arlene Wilhelm – 1985-1987
Rev. Kent Huyck – 1988-1997
Rev. Norman Stanton – Interim, 1997-1999
Rev. Dr. Allan Hugh Cole, Jr. – 1999-2003
Rev. Dr. Stephen Giordano – 2004 to 2012
Rev. Joshua Scheid – 2014 to present
Our church’s most important asset is vision. The vision and courage of those few charter members gave us a very solid foundation and those who followed have given of their time, talents and money to make this a thriving, vital congregation within the Reformed Church in America.