The People’s Church of Long Beach has a long history. From its creation all the way to now, it’s been through a lot.
And now, the church gets to celebrate it all Sept. 23, marking 100 years of being in Long Beach.
The first formal, written records of the church date all the way back to 1920. A small group of people met with plans to develop a permanent, non-denominational church in the West End. Over the span of the next three years, progress was made, slowly but surely, to complete the vision.
“The church was started by a group of people, maybe 20,” said Demerah Campbell, who has been involved with the church for 40 years. “They wanted a church with no mother church, meaning a standalone, non-denominational church. They didn’t want a Baptist, Lutheran or any other kind. They wanted a church just to read the scriptures and the Bible.”
Land was purchased to build the church on in December of 1921. The following August, the cornerstone was laid at 111 Delaware Ave. Five months later, on Jan. 14, 1923, the first services were held, albeit in the unfinished building. That same year, in July, the first baptism held there took place. The next month, on Aug. 25, 1923, the building was formally dedicated as The People’s Church of Long Beach.
It wasn’t all happy times though, as the church had some tough moments throughout the years.
“As the years went on, since it’s a resort community where people would come and go, the church membership would come and go too,” Campbell said. “There would be a couple of years where there was no money. So each member who was left, maybe 10 of them, would pay for the gas and the other one would pay for the electric. I thought that was beautiful. That kept this church going for 100 years through ups and downs.”
The church is still dealing with some other damages, including the deck losing support and others underneath. They have some wear and tear from being on the bayside as well, from the water. The plan is to fix all of the issues as soon as possible, because they “want the church to be around for another 100 years.”
As a celebration of the first 100, the church is hosting a centennial block party on Sept. 23. The festivities will run from noon to 3 p.m. and have free food, cotton candy, games and a display with pictures and some memorabilia from their history.
“People can come by and look at the picture exhibit from years ago,” said Pam Rosa, who’s been with the church since 1974. “Maybe you’ll see some of your neighbors or grandparents. People are always interested in looking at history.”
Another long-time member who will be at the party offering looks at history is Frieda Thommasson, who has been involved for 50 years.
The People’s Church of Long Beach has a lot of special art and pieces around the building. They have sculptures, pictures and stained glass, some of which can be seen during the celebration. In the nave, there’s even a Good Shepherd Window overlooking where Mass is held. The window was donated by William H. Reynolds, the founder of the City of Long Beach, in 1923, its first year.
More history and information on the church, including services, can be found on their website, PeoplesChurchNY.com.