A PROFILE OF FAITH IN ACTION
"We've Come This Far By Faith", the theme song of New Hope Lutheran Church in Jamaica, Queens, speaks to a faith journey during the past forty-four years as we approach our forty-fifth anniversary on September 16, 2018. This journey has been forged by baptized believers who had been struggling during the 1960’s and early 70's to survive as three individual southeast Queens congregations of largely African descent, Good Shepherd, Incarnation, and St. Thomas Lutheran Churches. The consolidation of the three churches, which officially formed New Hope in September 1973, was not an easy process. Decisions on where and how to worship, for example, prompted endless meetings and discussions before the former St. Thomas church building and parsonage were finally selected as New Hope's permanent sites.
But the God we serve is an awesome God. He provided the merged congregations with visionary clergy shepherds and dynamic lay leaders who structured and implemented committees and ministries that eventually kindled the cooperative spirit embodied in New Hope's mission statement: “Three in one, united for ministry, fortified by faith and committed to service”. The Worship and Music and Property Committees were among the first to be formed by our first pastor, the Rev. Chester Strohl, who served New Hope from 1974 to 1979. He was named Pastor Emeritus upon his retirement. Our first organist and music director, Ms. Leola Cherry, formed the senior and youth choirs and performed a wonderful music ministry for 30 years until her death in 2003. Many other active committees and groups were created over the years until now New Hope boasts over a dozen functioning committees and ministries.
The Rev. James R. Thomas was called to New Hope between the years 1980 and 1985. He furthered the growth and development of the congregation—creating an active Men’s group and Men’s Chorus, fostered outreach and evangelism ministries, developed congregational leaders, encouraged member engagement in the synod and church-wide and promoted pastoral formation internships. Pastor Thomas’ community involvement helped bring national acclaim to New Hope when the church was selected by the American Broadcasting network (ABC) to host its televised Easter service in 1985.
It is written "faith without deeds is useless" (James 2:20.) New Hope's faith story is strongly under-girded by the deeds of many clergy and lay leaders whose faith and works contributed to our survival along the rocky road New Hope has traveled. This was a critical factor during the pastoral vacancy between 1986 and 1989 when lay leaders and supply pastors kept New Hope alive and relational. Many of those early faith-led workers now rest from their labors. However, New Hope continues to be blessed with many talented and devoted members who are continuing to build on the legacy of those who preceded them in our faith journey.
New Hope was later served by the Rev. Vincent Smith (1989-1992) and the Rev. Dennis Yarbrough (1992-1993). Both pastors made important contributions to the growth and advancement of the church.
We were especially blessed during the thirteen years of leadership by the Rev. Brenda K. Smith (1995-2008) who instilled into the congregation a strong sense of love, faith, and service mainly by her exemplary example. Her community and synod-wide activism resulted in New Hope being recognized as an outstanding congregation throughout the entire Metropolitan New York Synod and Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. In 2008 Pastor Brenda was called by the churchwide office to serve as its Director of Discipleship.
During the four-year pastoral vacancy that followed, New Hope was served and spiritually led and fed by interim pastors, the Rev. Dr. Lee Wesley and the Rev. Marianne Tomecek, who provided continuity, pastoral care, and guidance.
In the lead-up year (2012) to our 40th-anniversary, New Hope adopted the motto, "Hope Brings Forth God’s Blessings". Those blessings included the culmination of a four-year renovation project to make the church accessible to the physically challenged and augment our outreach ministries. The renovations were dedicated in June 2012.
Another blessing that same year was the filling of our pastoral vacancy in December 2012 by the late Rev. Rodney J. Smith, then a recent graduate of the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, who brought a very spiritual emphasis to our worship services. The following year, the church began facing urgent financial crises. Rather than flee, Pastor Rodney organized an on-going Financial Summit of church leaders to address the crises. Unfortunately, Pastor Rodney died suddenly from a heart attack on April 29, 2014. It was a shocking loss. Pastor Tomecek returned as our interim pastor, providing guidance and comfort to our grieving congregation.
Despite the loss, God enabled us to persevere. He did not leave us helpless or hopeless. Instead, He has provided for us in every way. We continue under the leadership of Interim Pastor Marianne Tomecek. Our Call Committee is discerning God’s call of a full-time pastor. Our Financial Summit convenes monthly to stay aware of cash flow needs and to maintain strong fiscal management and stability. We have established a very successful “Adopt A Bill” program whereby individuals assume responsibility for selected financial obligations. These gifts offset some of our general operating expenses. We were awarded a matching Capital Improvement grant from the Metro NY Synod to upgrade the electrical service in our parish house. We began rebuilding our Sunday School in 2017 by piloting a program for children ages 3-12, which runs concurrently with our 10 am worship until the children join for the young people's message following the adult sermon. We have retained the services of a masterful pianist and musician, Mark Wagner, as our Minister of Music who along with the senior choir and the Men’s Chorus continues to provide a tremendous music ministry here at New Hope.
Since our last milestone anniversary five years ago, New Hope has mourned the loss of thirty-two of its faithful and stalwart members. We have also welcomed twenty-four members through affirmation and by baptism. With the help of God, we are eager to welcome even more.
We have been and continue to be people of hope – true to our name, “New Hope” – a people on a faithful journey of proclaiming God’s glory in this part of His vineyard! We are, “Three in one, united for ministry, fortified by faith and committed to service.”