The former Church of the Nazarene, a building at 2650 Wilson Avenue that has been empty of congregants for years, will be torn down to make way for a residential home, Your NewsMag has learned.
Learning from attorney Michael Aspinall that the church was built in 1927, former congregant Larry Mancini, present pastor of the Bay Shore Church of the Nazarene, remarked to Your NewsMag that “Yes, the church really did open in 1927. It contained a bell that was rung every Sunday morning just prior to the service. I believe this may have been the old LIRR bell that they gave to the church.”
As a congregant from 1959 to 1973, his family “lived on Freeman Avenue when we began to attend the church, moving to Martin Avenue as our family grew. We continued to attend the church after moving across town.” He remembers “One Sunday [when] we had a snow storm, my dad and mom pulled the three of us kids on a sled to church that morning!”
His mother and dad, Gladys and Larry A. Mancini, Sr., were both board members of the church. “My Dad was also Sunday school superintendent and my mom taught Sunday school,’ he continued.
He said the church’s attendance peak was in the mid-1960s, when approximately 50 people attended, and it had tie-ins with the community. For example, George Sullivan, the local deli owner, attended. “For years Pastor Clifton Matthews delivered the invocation and benediction at Mepham High School graduation ceremonies,” he added.
The congregation was mostly from Bellmore and Merrick, he remarked, although several came from Brooklyn on the train to attend, “as I remember.”
He recalled his early life in Bellmore, saying “In the 1960s Bellmore still had vacant lots, creeks and wooded areas. South Bellmore had not been developed as it is today, and there was still a place on the bay called Bellmore Beach.”
Meanwhile, Pastor Mancini “attended Martin Avenue, Grand Avenue Junior High, Jerusalem Avenue Junior High (the borders were switched and moved a bunch of us) and Mepham High School, where I ran cross country and track. He says he still hosts a mini reunion each spring with teammates and “our beloved Coach Paul Limmer,” which takes place in Bay Shore.
Lifelong Bellmore resident Valerie Skelly told Your NewsMag she remembers the church vividly, passing by it regularly when she cut through on the way to school at Mepham.
“It had such an interesting name,” she thought at the time, because “Jesus was the Nazarene,” she remembered.