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In the midst of a constantly changing neighborhood of immigrants, one Flushing organization has remained a community fixture for the last 200 years.
The Macedonia African Methodist Episcopal Church, built by freed slaves, native Americans and poor whites in the 1800s, celebrated its bicentennial in the bustling and still-diverse neighborhood with a parade and street renaming.
“Today we honor that history with a small token of gratitude — the street renaming,” said City Comptroller John Liu, who lives near the church at 37-22 Union St. “But that street sign barley does justice.”
A new sign outside of the church designates Union Street as Macedonia AME Church Way and represents all of the community outreach that has gone on over the centuries, according to church officials.
Along with providing spiritual fortification, the church also runs a soup kitchen and food pantry, according to Carollyn Scavella, who helped organize the celebration.
“We feed about 450 people with the food pantry,” she said. “They are lined up around the block.”
The parish runs the soup kitchen every Sunday.
And Macedonia turns no one away.
“From people from all walks of life, it’s a wonderful place to worship,” Scavella said.
Parishioners and lawmakers, including state Assemblywoman Grace Meng (D-Flushing) and City Councilman Peter Koo (R-Flushing), marched with a banner around downtown Flushing.
“Our community is blessed to have had Macedonia here for the last 200 years,” Meng said. “It serves the needs of people all throughout Queens on a spiritual and humanitarian level. The church is a great example of truly practicing what you preach.”
The church has served as a meeting place for the community as well, since it has hosted sports tournaments and 109th Precinct meetings over the years.
To further bolster the church’s reputation for altruism, many believe it was a stop on the underground railroad, a secret network of safe houses that smuggled slaves to their freedom in Canada in the 19th century.
But Macedonia is not stuck in the past. The church has ambitious plans to build a new pedestrian plaza and affordable housing unit in the coming months. The low-priced dwellings will stand in stark contrast to the condo and commercial development currently taking over the neighborhood, according to church officials.
Macedonia also has plans to expand the current church building.
Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4566.
©2011 Community Newspaper Group
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