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From Mustard Seeds...

The creation of many houses of worship demonstrate Massapequa's enormous population growth in the 1950s and 1960s.

As the Massapequas began to be populated with  people moving out of New York City in the late 1940s and 1950s, the need for a wide variety of services became apparent.

Accompanying the construction of new houses were calls for churches, schools, libraries, stores,  parks, restaurants, etc.  This blog will focus on the development of houses of worship and how members of various congregations made due with worship spaces until their churches or temples were completed. All these activities underscore the rapid and enormous population growth of the Massapequas duringthe 1950s and 1960s.

The New Testament contains a parable about a mustard seed: how it's smaller than all seeds, but grows to become a tree, so that the birds of the air can nest in it. Many religious groups in this area started small, but grew much larger even than their leaders had expected. The first example concerns Lutherans who moved to this area and were looking for a place to worship. Our Redeemer Church in Seaford was built in 1930, but was much too small to accommodate its neighbors to the east, and was itself about to expand.

While funds were being raised, members of what became held Sunday services in the old Massapequa Village Hall, built in the 1870s and used as a hotel and later a private residence. The first church was built in 1954, but quickly became too small for the expanding congregation. Fundraising efforts led to the construction of a new church, incorporating the original building, in 1960.

The newly-created Roman Catholic Diocese of Rockville Center was looking for places to build churches to accommodate its members who had bought houses in Massapequa Park and the immediate vicinity. The Diocese, which was itself carved out of the Brooklyn Diocese in 1957, settled on a location at the extreme northeast of Massapequa Park, on Carman's Road near the Southern State Parkway.

The property was an active six acre farm for many years until the owners sold the Diocese the entire parcel, including three barns. One barn was used as a rectory, one as a classroom and one as a chapel. A convent, rectory and school were completed in 1964, but the church came much later. When the barn became too small, worshippers attended services at several schools in the area, most commonly at This arrangement lasted until enough money was raised to complete in 1985.

Further south, as the population grew around Merrick Road, the Diocese purchased the Wagon Wheel Restaurant (originally a Floyd-Jones family estate), erected a front entrance so it resembled a church, and  used it until opened in 1965. As happened with Our Lady of Lourdes, a school was completed first, to meet the obvious need for classroom space and to accommodate children whose parents wanted them to have a religious education.

The mustard seed analogy works with many other religious groups in the area. To accommodate their needs, Methodist church members, who were worshipping in the American Legion Hall on Grand Street, started a church on Park Boulevard in Massapequa Park, using the novel approach of buying a  in Bellport and barging it through the Great South Bay and South Oyster Bay to what is now , where it was loaded onto a trailer and driven to its current location.

Like St. David's original church, it became a temporary fix. Moved in 1947 to accommodate the 42 charter members, it could barely contain a Sunday School that enrolled 300 students by the mid 1950s. The original church was moved sideways so a larger structure could be built that incorporated it. The new church was consecrated in 1962.

Members of the also worshipped in the American Legion Hall, and in a school, in this case the , until their church was completed in 1963. The familiar pattern continued: the congregation grew, a building was constructed that soon became too small, and a larger church was completed, in this case in 1968, with the original churchbecoming the parsonage.

located on Jerusalem Avenue, shows a cornerstone date of 1961. That represented the end of extensive wandering for this congregation also. Worship services were first held in a congregant's home, then in Grace Episcopal Church (!), then in a storefront on Jerusalem Avenue, until the current building, with a meeting hall and offices, werecompleted.

There is a common pattern with striking similarities to explain the growth of these six congregations: use of existing buildings, construction of churches that quickly became too small, and finally expansion and rebuilding to satisfy the congregation's needs. It underscores the explosive development of this area in a relatively short time period.

Subsequent blogs will document the growth of the library system and the school system.  In the meantime, please enjoy the images that accompany this story and contact the author or Massapequa Patch if you have any photos that might shed additional light on the growth of worship spaces in the Massapequas.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Jackie Zinn Breyer July 19, 2012 at 09:30 PM
Fascinating article, thanks!


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