Valley Stream Happenings

This 100-year-old Valley Stream church is up for sale. Its parishioners are stunned.

Rocked by news of Holy Trinity's closure, parishioners seek answers.


Since before the turn of this century, Amy Schmidlin’s saw many defining moments of her life transpire at Holy Trinity Episcopal Church. Her fellow parishioners say the same.

The 100-year-old church building has been deconsecrated — allegedly turned over to other renters for a time — and listed for sale to the tune of $3.95 million.

“I got married at that church. My parents got married at that church. My sister had her Sweet Sixteen there,” Schmidlin said. “Since I was born, that church has helped to define me and my family’s life, and so many good memories and milestones are stored in that place.”

Bishop Lawrence Provenzano, head of the Episcopal Diocese of Long Island, reported church membership at Holy Trinity dropped to untenable levels leading to its demise.

“Membership at Holy Trinity, Valley Stream, fell below the threshold to both upkeep its parish and minister to the wider community,” he said in a statement. “The remaining members of Holy Trinity are now worshiping at nearby congregations. Though it is always a difficult decision, throughout the history of our diocese, parishes have regularly moved, opened, closed, and merged as we have adapted to changing conditions.”

But Schmidlin said she and other longtime parishioners were left stunned by the news and felt particularly slighted by the fact she did not find out directly from Provenzano or church leadership, but from Facebook.

“I found out about the sale of the church after a member in our private Holy Trinity

Facebook group posted it was up for sale online,” said Schmidlin who promptly messaged fellow lifelong parishioner and friend Debbie Jacobs with one question: ‘Is this real?’

“Four generations of my family attended and served at Holy Trinity, and this is my parish family,” Jacobs said. “I thought Provenzano would maintain the Episcopal presence in Valley Stream, but that historical building will be torn down, and it’s heartbreaking.”


A wider trend of declining membership

Jacobs acknowledged that church membership was on a steady decline before the Covid-19 pandemic and that it put the church’s fate in a precarious position even more as many events such as in-person services and nursery school classes were limited or canceled.

“We tried to keep control of the church as much as we could, and then when Covid hit, it kind of destroyed everything,” Jacobs said noting that in its latter years, with the exit of their last part-time priest, the parishioners took their ministry online with Zoom prayer meetings, a newsletter, and a book club. Yet post-pandemic she never expected the church to fail.

Nevertheless, a cold-eye review of the Episcopal Church’s parochial reports shows a declining churchwide trend in membership starting as far back as 2013, with the number of baptized members down 21 percent in 2022. On Long Island, membership fell from about 47,000 to 36,500 members, a 22 percent drop.

Not surprisingly, several Episcopal churches in the Long Island region have closed in recent years, including St. Joseph’s Episcopal Church in Queens Village and Grace Episcopal Church in Riverhead.


Saving your spiritual home or bust 

But not all congregations, when faced with the imminent closure of their church, took the loss with solemn acceptance. When the Diocese sought to close St. Mary’s Episcopal Church in Carle Place in 2022, parishioners rallied against the decision and managed to keep their church, albeit under a reimagined spiritual facility known as an “Incarnation Chapel.”

Instead, the new center of worship has traded away the pews and Sunday morning service in favor of a more intimate, smaller meditative center and Saturday evening dinners.

Jacobs questioned why something similar wouldn’t be possible for Holy Trinity.

“We just want to know why not put another church in there?” she said. “Why not make use of the building and the stained glass? Why tear it all down?”

During the waning days of the church, “the Diocese did have other Episcopal churches come and talk about their church communities in Long Beach and Rockville Center,” said Susan Kaszubski, who served in the vestry and taught at the nursery school.

“But I never imagined it would close down. I have gone to several churches to try them out, but I haven’t found my home yet, a place where I feel as comfortable as I did at Valley Stream.”

Schmidlin, who also has been scouting for a new church community like Holy Trinity to send her children, was even less optimistic.

“A church like Holy Trinity doesn’t exist anymore,” she said.

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