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Bayside’s The Good Shepherd folds after 80 years

The congregation was formed in 1927 as a missionary group branched off from Messiah Lutheran Church in Flushing. But the Church council made the sad vote to close after membership had dwindled to under 50 from a peak of several hundred in better years."It's like the life of a person," said Dan Nigro, the president of the church council, who grew up in the church. "In the early years the church was growing."As Bayside developed out of farmland in the 1920s, missionaries began holding Lutheran services in a garage on Jordan Street in 1926, according to a history of the church prepared for its 75th anniversary. The next year Good Shepherd was formed as an independent congregation.In the late 1920s and early '30s, the group bought land and built a church at 201-03 29th Ave. The school was built in 1957, when the neighborhood was flooded with young baby boomer families."The '50s and '60s were probably like the middle age, the great years of the church as far as membership was concerned, as far as attendance," said Nigro, a retired Fire Department chief.But Nigro, who met his wife through the church and was married there, said Good Shepherd remained a vibrant place to worship even as families moved away in recent decades to the suburbs or older members retired to Florida."We reached our waning years like a person would," he said. "It was still a great place to be, still a great family."Those who came later to the congregation agreed."It was a nice, very close knit, wonderful congregation," said Denise Johnson, a recent church member and a historian who is preserving photos and church documents with the Bayside Historical Society.But Nigro said the church was no longer financially viable."A declining membership means a decline in income, which made it unable for us really to afford a full-time pastor," he said.More than 75 members and former members came for the final service, some from as far as Massachusetts.A Korean church that has rented space at the church will continue to worship there. Ownership of the property will revert to the Metropolitan New York Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America.Nigro said he is not sure where he will worship now and plans to visit different churches in the area."It's the only church I've ever attended," he said.Reach reporter John Tozzi by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300 Ext. 174.

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