By Betsy Abraham
It’s easy to overlook the brick, steeple-topped building at the corner of Union Ave. and Grand Blvd. Maybe your eyes have adjusted to the red-doored building because it’s been there so long or maybe you don’t notice it because it’s set back away from the road by a green lawn scattered with headstones. While the simple building itself makes no great boasts, the congregation of Westbury A.M.E. Zion Church has a lot to be proud of. This month, the church celebrates its 180th anniversary.
“We’re just rejoicing and celebrating and excited. God has done a lot in 180 years,” says Pastor Gregor Miles. “It’s really evidence of God’s love and grace, and speaks volumes.”
The church began in 1834 as a congregation of freed and runaway slaves. Miles notes that Quakers, including the Hicks family, were instrumental in helping the church get started. The church started on Guinea Woods Road (now Glen Cove Road) in 1834, under the name New Light Baptist Church and led by pastor Liakim Levi. In 1867, the congregation moved to its current location at 274 Grand Blvd. in Westbury. In 1892, they changed the name to Westbury A.M.E. Zion Church.
Today the church has 100 members who stay connected with worship services on Sunday mornings, and Bible studies and prayer meetings throughout the week. Miles notes that they are also active in Westbury and New Cassel. They have numerous community outreach events throughout the year including movie nights, recreational activities and food drives. They also often partner with other churches in the area for community events, such as Kingdom Community Day.
Herbert Mahoney has been attending A.M.E. Zion Church for almost 60 years. He describes the church as warm and loving.
“The people there are very warm hearted. The church is nothing but love. There’s no place like Westbury A.M.E. Zion Church,” said Mahoney.
Julia Seymour-Philips has been a member of the church since 1982 and says she loves the small, tight- knit community.
“We’re a family. We all live in the area so we see each other all around the community. We’re a good support system,” says Seymour-Philips. “When something happens to one person everyone rallies around them and gets them through it.”
As they look to the future, Miles says the church is focusing on the Bible verse Zechariah 4:6: “‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the LORD Almighty.”
“Our desire is to be led by God’s Spirit so we can be increasingly available to Him. As we do that He’ll give us direction and show us what we need to do,” Miles says.
The church will be having an anniversary celebration banquet on June 14 at Verdis in Westbury, which is open to the community. To find out more call the church at 516-997-5970.