The pastor of St. Jacobus Evangelical Lutheran Church in Woodside has helped the church become more connected to the surrounding community.
Joseph Mantovani, 35, has been the church’s pastor for the last seven years. He said that when he first joined the church, attendance was low, with a general lack of church-community engagement.
Since then he has worked to bring the church back into prominence by sharing space with other congregations, community groups, sports teams and Little Leagues as well as Alcoholics Anonymous and Cocaine Anonymous meetings. The church has always hosted a preschool that serves about 150 families.
Mantovani said the church’s greatest accomplishment has been using its space to welcome other congregations and taking part in neighborhood improvement efforts such as graffiti removal, painting and greening.
“There’s so many people who want to go out and help and do something in their community, but it’s often hard to figure out how to do that,” Mantovani said.
Mantovani was born and raised in Brooklyn and has been living in Queens since he became the church’s pastor. He has a twin brother.
He received his bachelor’s degree in marketing philosophy from Brooklyn College in 2003 and his Master of Divinity from the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Philadelphia in 2009.
The church runs a food pantry at Bethany Lutheran Church in Elmhurst that is funded by United Way and Lutheran Social Services. Mantovani devotes two Saturdays each month to the pantry, which serves 150 people each time.
The church also runs food drives at Renaissance Charter School in Jackson Heights and PS 58 in Maspeth.
The pastor has a blog where he posts his sermons from the Sunday service as well as the church’s activities throughout the week and works with Habitat for Humanity ReStores, nonprofit home improvement stores and donation centers.
Mantovani touted the church’s diversity, noting that the preschool has people from up to 30 different countries, including Bangladesh, Tibet, Nepal and Indonesia.
“It’s become a community where people from all these diverse backgrounds can share their cultural identity, their worship styles, their service projects and all these different things,” he said.
Mantovani said the church is considering building a community center in a space where different Lutheran churches can work together and offer English as a Second Language courses, immigration clinics, health screenings, information on health insurance, food and ways to get in contact with city shelters.
“There’s a huge want for people to help, but they’re not necessarily in communities or spaces where they can do that easily,” he said.
Reach reporter Madina Toure by e-mail at mtour