There aren’t too many things synonymous with Malverne that can claim to be older than the Village itself. There are even less that can say they contributed to Malverne’s growth as a Village. The Community Presbyterian Church (CPC) of Malverne, which turns 100 this year, is one of those rarities and an integral part of Malverne history.
The Church originally came to be due to the vision of Alfred H. Wagg, a vice-president and general manager of the Amsterdam Development and Sales Company. Mr. Wagg, seeking to build his fortune, discovered Malverne, which was “at that time a barren country district without a name,” as he wrote in the Town & Country edition of the American City magazine’s July 1916 issue.
As Wag began develop the land, he learned he needed several things that would attract city people to countryside of Long Island. “He was out to make his fortune and realized that his great utopia would need a spiritual anchor,” said Pastor Fritz. Mr. Wagg may have also been influenced by his father, who was a minister. So on February 24, 1914, an organizational meeting was called for the purpose of forming The First Church of Malverne, which was to become a non-sectarian organization. The meeting was attended by people bearing the many names already known by most Malvernites today: George Cornwell, Charles and William Rider, Samuel Vorhees, Jeremiah Woods, Alfred Wagg and others.
When the church was first built, it had difficulty becoming a central focus of the neighborhood. There was continual disagreement among its worshippers as to whether the church should be affiliated with a denomination. As a result, the church split in two: The Stuart Avenue Presbyterian Church, which was located at the corner of Hempstead Avenue and Stuart Avenue, and the First Church of Malverne. The Stuart Avenue Church, however, never took off and in 1933, re-joined The First Church and was renamed the Community Presbyterian Church. Interestingly enough, most of the Church’s records from 1914 and 1933 are gone.
“It wasn’t really until after World War II that the church took hold in the community,” said Pastor Fritz. A need for the larger church began to surface and an extension was put on the church at a cost of $50,000.
“The CPC went from a country-looking church to its present-day style,” said Pastor Fritz. It’s Community Hall, right next door, hasn’t been touched since it was built in 1929.
The church currently has a congregation of 1,5000 worshippers but the number of people who are impacted through the church’s various organizational groups is immense, according to Pastor Fritz. Boy scouts, girl scouts, Alcoholic Anonymous and numerous other organizations meet in its Community Hall on a regular basis. The Little Blessings Preschool is housed on the CPC’s property and is a non-denominational Christian preschool for children aged 2-1/2 years and older.
Pastor Fritz reports that people from all denominations have become worshipers in the CPC, including Catholics, Jews, Muslims, conservatives and liberals.
In the 1970s, the CPC’s Reverend Andrew Yoggy became a big supporter of integration in schools and was an instrumental proponent in helping children from Lakeview to get bused to the present-day Downing School on Lindner Place, according to Pastor Fritz.
In addition to the 100th anniversary festivities that have already happened earlier this year, the CPC will continue its celebrations on October 26th when the hold a historical service that replicates the church’s original service held in 1914.
In the midst of all the centennial excitement came the news earlier this month that CPC Pastor Fritz Nelson, who has been leading the church for the past 10 years, will be relocating himself and his family to Ohio at the end of July to take care of aging in-laws. ‘We’re very sad to see him leave, but we wish him well,” said Janet Neugebauer, a member of the CPC. “He’s always been very involved in the community and I’m sure he’ll continue to do so in Ohio.”
Ms. Neugebauer’s husband Donald added, “We’re sorry to see him leave. He’s been here close to 11 years now and has sort of put the CPC on the map as far as community outreach goes.” Mr. Neugebauer said that Pastor Fritz had initiated the church’s successful community food drives, the “Done in a Day” program which helps Hurricane Sandy victims repair their homes, and many other initiatives. “When you become a minister and are part of people’s baptisms, confirmations and such, you become more than a minister. You become family. He’ll be missed.”
His last day preaching at the CPC will be July 27.