At Alliance Theological Seminary (ATS), men and women are prepared for ministry beyond the brick and mortar of church walls. Lucas Izidoro, ATS Master of Divinity student, (pictured right with his professor, Dr. Stanley John) recently talked about the personal impact of his seminary courses such as “Perspectives on Missions,” “Church in the Urban World,” and one taught by Dr. John, “The Church as a Social and Cultural Institution.” He credits courses like these with the way he has chosen to influence his church family to have more of a presence in the local community.
“One thing was clear to me,” he shared, “we needed to create bridges between our ethnic church and the local English-speaking community. I knew this would be a long-term endeavor, but we’ve been taking intentional steps towards being a community church—one that is a true community of faith in Astoria that is wholeheartedly committed to loving God and loving all people. We’ve trusted that the Holy Spirit would highlight people of peace in the community that we would partner with to make a difference. Richard Khuzami, the Director of the Old Astoria Neighborhood Association (OANA), is one of those people. Through OANA, we’ve been able to listen incarnationally to the needs of the community and then take some steps towards meeting those needs.”
As lead pastor of the English-speaking congregation of Family Church in Astoria (Queens), he joined forces with the Old Astoria Neighborhood Association (OANA), the Astoria Houses Residents Association and elected officials to bring attention to the Department of Sanitation’s street cleaning schedule. Currently the Sanitation Department will not clean streets unless residents accept four times per week, twice on each side. The residents would like the default to be two times per week, once on each side. This gives residents an incentive to ask for street cleaning. As it stands the streets are not being cleaned at all. The response of Pastor Lucas and mostly participants from Family Church was to converge on the neighborhood with brooms, gloves and bags for a street-cleaning event with the hope that this effort would convince the Department of Sanitation to change the schedule to twice each week.
To explain the vision of Family Church and their response to this community disservice, Izidoro points to its mission statement: “We exist to reach and influence all people with the transformational love of Jesus [Outreach & Witnessing], so that together we can glorify God [Worship], build deep relationships [Fellowship], grow in emotional and spiritual maturity [Discipleship], and serve the community with passion, joy, and creativity [Service].”
He explains, “The way we’ve carried out that vision has changed throughout the years. Our church has over 35 years of history and we’ve served the Brazilian community (formerly as First Portuguese-Speaking Baptist Church of New York) for most of that time. However, two years ago I was ordained pastor of our new English ministry. In an effort to open the church to our English-speaking community, our church’s name has changed to Family Church, and now we offer English services and English-speaking small groups throughout Queens, Long Island and Westchester. We are taking intentional steps towards a multi-cultural future.”
And how has community involvement like street-cleaning impacted the Queens neighborhood? “This stand has put our church on the map with a lot of residents,” Lucas says. “We are no longer seen as ‘The Brazilian Church’ that has its own thing going on. We are starting to see people showing up, coming in, and taking interest in our church life! We pray that our church would continue to reflect the heart of God more clearly, where everyone is welcome.”