by Bill Batson
Youthful energy and a spirit of creativity permeate the ministry of Jeff Salvesen, the new Pastor at Living Christ Church. The congregation that worships on South Broadway is modern and informal, but with a rich history that is significant both locally and globally. And what is offered before Sunday services and the dress code might surprise you!
Living Christ Church was formerly known as Simpson Memorial, in honor of the founder of the Missionary Training Institute, the precursor of Nyack College. Albert Bernard Simpson is considered one of the most significant figures in the American missionary movement. His Missionary Training Institute, founded in 1882 in New York City, moved to the village of South Nyack, New York 1897. In 1956 the school was renamed Nyack Missionary College and then in 1972 the name was changed to Nyack College.
The congregation that would become Living Christ Church started in the early 1940’s when students at Nyack College began reaching out to their surrounding community. On March 26, 1945, an organizing service was held in the home of church leader Don Byers.
Services were initially held in a rented fraternal hall at the corner of Franklin Street and High Avenue, a structure that was once a German Presbyterian Church and is now Pilgrim Baptist.
The growing congregation soon bought property at South Broadway and Voorhis Avenue in South Nyack. The first service was held in 1951.
During an interview last week, Pastor Salvesen reflects on the philosophies and programs of Living Christ Church and how his new job is also a homecoming.
In your bio, you mention you like to draw and in her profile picture, your Worship Director, Julie Hodsdon is playing acoustic guitar. How important are the arts in your ministry?
I have had no formal training in the arts. What I do is more like doodling. But all the art forms; drawing, dancing, singing and spoken word resonate with me. Music is a central part of our Sunday service.We have a full band every week.
You were a youth counselor in Pennsylvania. How does that work inform your ministry?
For the first 12 years of ministry, I worked predominately with youth. But after several years, I found myself desiring to help the whole family.
My years in youth ministry helped me to make the Christian life very practical and experiential, and I’ve continued that style as I’ve shifted from youth to adults.
I hope I bring the enthusiasm and fun of my youth days to the entire congregation now.
Riverview Nursery School
In 1991, the church launched the Riverview Nursery School for children ages 2-4. The program accommodates up to 100 boys and girls, supported by 10 teachers and assistants.
Riverview Nursery School‘s philosophy is that young children learn through play.
The non-profit school welcomes children of all backgrounds and beliefs and is a community ministry of Living Christ Church. RNS has been licensed since 1998 by NYS Office of Children and Family Services.
For more information, contact RNS Director, Jan Lepori at 845-353-6737.
I understand that you welcomed over one hundred people in need for a Thanksgiving meal this year.
This was a first for us for the Thanksgiving meal, but something we would like to host annually. It was the idea of our sexton, Joe Rodriguez. We had over 150 people plus the volunteers. My desire is that our church will be more engaged with the greater Nyack community throughout the year, serving unmet needs and making our community an even better place.
How do you and your wife and children find living in Nyack?
My wife, Annette, and I met at Nyack College. After we got married, I attended Alliance Theological Seminary, the graduate school of Nyack College. After graduation, I worked at a church in Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania for 12 years. So this is really like coming home. We love Nyack. My parents live in Nanuet and three of my four brothers live in the area.
I love hanging out in town. Many mornings you will find me at the Art Cafe on Broadway or having lunch at Tarantellas. Most Thursday nights you will find me at Casa Del Sol for Open Mic night. ..listening, lol, not performing!
Are there any events that you would like the public to know about?
The church serves the community by housing a weekly Sunday supper at 5p for people in need of a hot and tasty meal. We also host Alcoholics Anonymous. Practically every day of the week, something is going on to which the community is most welcome — such as children’s ministries, youth groups, prayer groups, or Bible studies — including a new wave of “Encounter Groups,” designed for newcomers, starting on January 26.
Tell me a few things about Living Christ Church that you think might surprise people?
We serve really great coffee on a Sunday morning that you can bring into the service with you. Also, we do not have a dress code. On most Sundays, you will find me wearing jeans.
Special thanks to Warren Bird and Patricia Ward.
Bill Batson is an activist, artist and writer who lives and sketches in Nyack, NY. Nyack Sketch Log: “Nyack Sketch Log: Living Christ Church” © 2013 Bill Batson. To see more, visit billbatsonarts.com