There will be a homecoming this Sunday at Emanuel United Church of Christ as Father Elias Mallon returns to Woodhaven to speak at the 10 a.m. service.
Father Mallon grew up in Woodhaven and went to St. Elizabeth’s and then Archbishop Molloy High School. He was ordained in 1971 and has spent his life involved with the study of Roman Catholic-Christian-Muslim dialogue and peace building in the Middle East since 1985.
He has published many articles and two books on Islam, including the award-winning “Islam: What Catholics Need to Know.” His travels on the subject have taken him around the world.
He’s excited to be coming back to his childhood home, and although Emanuel will be somewhat new to him, Father Mallon has vivid memories of the area around the church.
“Some of my unhappiest times were spent near Emanuel Church,” he said, laughing. “St. Anthony’s was across the street and that’s where the ballfields were. And I hated playing baseball. I was so bad, teams used to fight to put me on the other team!”
But he does share one fond memory of St. Anthony’s.
“In the winter, they used to hose it down and turn it into a skating rink,” he recalled. “I liked that a lot!”
Sitting at the corner of 91st Avenue and Woodhaven Boulevard, Emanuel United Church of Christ has the unique distinction of being either the first or last thing people see when entering or leaving Woodhaven.
Over the years, Emanuel has been an integral part of the fabric of Woodhaven, opening its doors to welcome many community groups. Through their generosity, Emanuel has become known as “the friendly church.”
Emanuel has been part of Woodhaven for so long that it’s surprising when you dig into their history and find out it started out in Manhattan before branching out to Brooklyn in 1877 to serve a population that was rapidly expanding east.
During World War I, many of the congregation’s elders began leaving Brooklyn for the wide open spaces of Queens and Long Island. Emanuel soon followed, merging with a separate mission from Richmond Hill and purchasing a plot at 89th Avenue and Woodhaven Boulevard.
The 89th Avenue church building opened in 1924, and it lasted a little over a decade.
A year after its 60th Anniversary, in 1938, the City of New York took over the property and tore down the church as part of a project to widen Woodhaven Boulevard. For those familiar with the area, the old church sat at 89th Avenue at what is now the middle of Woodhaven Boulevard.
The congregation received $136,000 from the city, bought a nearby plot of land on 91st Avenue, and built the beautiful church that has welcomed travelers to Woodhaven ever since.
It is a true community church, serving as the focal point for Anniversary Day Parades, Boy Scout meetings, and as a place where community issues are hashed out during meetings of the Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association.
More recently, Emanuel opened its doors as a COVID vaccination center so that locals and seniors could be protected against the deadly virus.
Emanuel has also hosted meetings and events of the Woodhaven Cultural & Historical Society for the last 29 years. And we have some good stuff planned in the coming months, so if you’re not on our mailing list, contact us at [email protected] and get added.
Whenever the community has needed help, the folks at Emanuel have always generously opened their doors. They serve as a mirror for our community, reflecting the best that Woodhaven has to offer, where caring for your neighbors and caring for the community is more important than caring for oneself.
It is that strength that has kept Emanuel alive and well into their 144th year, and we thank them for all that they have done for our community.