We just finished our last vision gathering in which we shared about our dreams for Hope. One of the questions I addressed was “Why plant a church in Astoria?”
We were actually approached by a few people to plant a church in Manhattan (including a couple of denominations) before we settled on Astoria. If you ask Tina, I was thisclose to choosing Manhattan, but Astoria kept tugging at our hearts. Here are some reasons why:
1. Astoria is One of the Least Churched Areas of Queens, NY – I posted this on twitter (courtesy of David Ellis, pastor of Astoria Community Church), but if you were to increase the attendance of every Christian church in Queens by 1,000 people, you’d still be left with 1.5 million unchurched people in the borough of Queens. That’s more than the entire population of the city of Philadelphia.
Queens is three times (3 x’s) as unchurched as Manhattan, and yet, 40% of the Christian churches in Manhattan have been planted in the last 10 years, showing just how big a draw Manhattan has been for new churches. Meanwhile, church planting in Brooklyn and Queens have lagged behind (although these boroughs are much more populous).
As unchurched as Queens is, consider all the Korean churches in Flushing, the Spanish churches in Corona, and all the other areas of churched populations throughout this Borough. Astoria does not have many churches, unfortunately.
I’ve listed around 15 English speaking in the area (there might be more), and the average size is roughly ~65 people.
David Ellis, who planted Astoria Community Church ten years ago, told me, “this area desperately needs more churches!”
2. We Live Close By – Tina and I hang out in Astoria and LIC all the time. As we walk/drive through neighborhoods, it’s been common for us to pray for the different areas and people we meet.
3. Astoria is Remarkably Diverse – For an area that used to be almost entirely Italian and Greek, the region is very diverse. Moreover it’s very diverse socio-economically too.
– In the Zip Code 11106, where our Sunday Gatherings will likely be housed, there is a population of 43,000 and a poverty rate of 18.7% (poverty being defined as a household income below ~$26,000).
4. There is Some Good Food in Astoria – My favorite bagel place in the entire city is Brooklyn Bagel in Astoria. My favorite Red Velvet Cupcake is from Martha’s Bakery. My favorite diners in NYC are Bel Aire and Sanfords, both 24 hour spots that Tina and I have gone to at odd hours. One of my favorite burgers is Petey’s Burger. Two of our favorite Greek places are BZ Grill and Kyclades. I would add that our favorite taco and tamale place was in Astoria (Talcingo), but it closed down, unfortunately.
Anyone who lives in or close to Astoria knows what I’m talking about when it comes to food.
And we all know food is one of the most spiritual things in this life.