A small group of believers in the Bronx was gathering for house-to-house prayer service on a weekly basis; so successful was this mission that within a relatively short period of time, the need arose for a permanent place of worship. In obedience to the will of the Lord, the late Elder Alvin Malcolm embraced the challenge to become the spiritual leader for the small but growing community of faith believers, who assembled weekly to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In 1982, what was merely a vision became a reality—United Church of Jesus Christ was established in the Bronx, sharing space with a local community organization at 3550 White Plains Road. Six years later, the congregation had grown considerably, as God continued to fulfill His promise to “add to the church daily such as should be saved.” In an effort to expand the ministry, the church leadership embarked on a mission to identify a new location, large enough to accommodate the growing congregation. The first step in this direction began with the acquisition of a building at 3950 Bronxwood Avenue. The building was soon renovated and became the sanctuary. In the midst of celebrating this significant property acquisition for the ministry, the church was suddenly plunged into mourning with the untimely passing of the late Elder A. Malcolm.
Within a few years after purchasing the property at 3950 Bronxwood Avenue, the congregation rapidly outgrew the space; we then acquired another property at 720 East 221st Street to build a larger sanctuary. While making plans to construct a new sanctuary at this location, the Lord proved, once again, that the earth and all its fullness belong to Him. The building adjacent to the church became available, and at an offer that was too good to be ignored. Through the cooperative effort of faithful members, we secured the finances for the purchase and on December 6, 1993, we took title to 3936 Bronxwood Avenue, subsequently designating the one-story building on the premises, the new site for the sanctuary. The property at East 221st Street, which had a two-family residential structure, and was previously designated the site for a new sanctuary, became a residence for members of United Church.
On September 23, 1995, we completed renovation of the one-story building at 3936 Bronxwood Avenue and dedicated it as the new sanctuary. The church continued to grow by leaps and bounds through fasting, prayer, and outreach ministries. That wave of evangelism still continues to flow through the assembly, and seekers are responding to the invitation to accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.
The commitment of the shepherds who have led this flock is a remarkable testimony that they are God’s disciples. With the passing of the beloved Pastor, the late Alvin Malcolm, Elder Daniel W. Thompson assumed the responsibility of pastoring the congregation. Having run with patience, his confidence in God’s leading enabled him to pass the mantle to Elder Granville A. Senior, who was installed as Senior Pastor of this assembly on November 27, 2004. Indeed, this Joshua is determined to hold up the vision of his fathers and build with a strong arm and God’s might.
Some of us can testify that subsequent to taking the title to 3936 Bronxwood Avenue, a wonderful change came over this location. The structure that preceded the Church was the gathering place for men and women who were seeking to fill a void in their lives through the consumption of alcoholic beverages. With the site now a place of worship, people of various backgrounds are enjoying the “new wine” that’s served from above. Many who have tasted of this “new wine” are able to say to observers, “we are not drunken [with wine] as ye suppose,” but with the Spirit of God. There is no doubt that the Holy Ghost dwells here, and is filling every heart that opens its door; we continue to urge men, women, and children to come and drink of the new wine—the only permanent thirst-quencher that is able to repair lives that have been shattered by the ill effects of alcohol.
As the years went by, the need to expand the sanctuary, once again, became a matter of priority. The decision was made to relocate the sanctuary to the second level of the existing building. On June 16, 2007, the newly constructed sanctuary, with a seating capacity for approximately 500 persons, was completed and dedicated. The first level has been designated a multipurpose hall, equipped to host various activities such as banquets and wedding receptions; it accommodates over 260 persons. In addition, a portion of this level now facilitates the well-needed expansion of the preschool. A library, also on this level, is open to those who wish to study to show themselves approved unto God (2 Timothy 2:15), from the relatively wide collection of books authored by well-respected Bible scholars.
One of the challenges that the ministry faces as the result of growth in the membership is adequate space for parking. The lack of a parking facility forces worshippers to double-park, thereby adding to the already congested streets in the area. However, in 2011 through financial pledges by its members, United Church purchased a property located adjacent to the church (858 E. 224th Street) and that site has parking space for over 20 vehicles. Within a relatively short period of time after acquiring the 858 E. 224th Street property, one of the adjoining lots at 862 E. 224th Street was listed for sale; The Church once again, through the generosity of its members, was able to acquire this neighboring parcel of real estate. This property has a 2-family frame structure, which is currently being renovated, and is expected to be completed in the very near future.
The church continues its mission of providing services to the community. Our goal is to meet not only man’s spiritual needs, but the needs of the total man. A brief description of our community projects is as follows:
Alvin Malcolm Senior Residence
After years of strategic planning and ceaseless prayer concerning the future endeavors of United Church of Jesus Christ, and its desire to improve the lives of community residents, the miraculous happened. On December 7, 2006, Pastor Granville A. Senior, members of United Church of Jesus Christ, and local government officials participated in a ground-breaking ceremony at 720 East 221st Street, to mark the official opening of the Alvin Malcolm Senior Residence (AMSR)—a 36 unit apartment complex for low-income elderly persons. This is indeed a milestone in the history of the Church in that completion of the AMSR project signifies the beginning of a commitment by United Church of Jesus Christ to provide affordable housing for residents of the community. AMSR is fully occupied.
The Missions Department participates in food and clothing drives. These efforts serve members of the local assembly, the immediate community, as well as the needy in various regions of Africa. Through generous donations from a government program in Brooklyn, and those of church members and friends, we have been able to assist many families in need. It is also noteworthy that there are special individuals within this assembly who continue to support projects in the Caribbean, namely: Haiti, The Dominican Republic and Jamaica.
Truly, the commitment of the saints has made all of this possible, and it would be amiss to conclude the history of United Church, without mentioning the cooperation of its members, from laity to clergy. Their unfeigned love for this ministry is what propelled every bus ride, boat ride, concert, breakfast and banquet — to name a few.
United Edu-Care Preschool, sponsored by United Church of Jesus Christ, is located at 3950 Bronxwood Avenue. What began almost fifteen years ago as a small program approved by the City of New York for to accommodate 29 children, ages 2-5 years old, was expanded in 2010 to a certified capacity of 84 children. The program was further expanded, beginning with the 2014-2015 School Year, to enroll 54 children, 4 years of age, in the full-day Universal Pre-Kindergarten Program (UPK), one of the current mayor’s signature initiatives for early childhood education. At the beginning of the new school year the full-day UPK program had the maximum enrollment allowed. The preschool staff, a minimum of thirteen, includes: one director, one secretary, four teachers, five assistant teachers, and two nutritionists.