A WONDERFUL APOSTOLIC HERITAGE...
The year 1929 brought New York City a devastating collapse of its financial institutions, skyrocketing unemployment and, unexpectedly, a young preacher determined to establish an apostolic church. At the very beginning of the Great Depression, Brother S. G. Norris arrived in the "Big Apple" to minister a new and powerful message of salvation and hope.
He began with small "cottage prayer meetings" in various parts of Manhattan. Meeting with a family or two, having prayer and teaching about the infilling of the Holy Ghost. Brother Norris was soon having services in several rented spaces on the Upper West Side - from 85th Street to 125th Street. After a couple of years, the little group began to grow and the major problem they faced was a place to worship. He was continually on the lookout for potential property or a suitable building, but property in Manhattan was scarce and very, very expensive. From 1929 until 1934, Brother Norris lead the group, but had not located a permanent church location. In 1934, he felt lead to contact another long-time Pentecostal Pioneer - Brother Andrew D. Urshan, to assume the pastorate. Brother Urshan agreed and Brother Norris moved to St. Paul, Minnesota where he founded the Apostolic Bible Institute and a strong revival church.
Brother Urshan was an energetic pastor and fervent Bible teacher. His foreign missions field experience served him very well as he encountered immigrants from almost every part of the world in the great city. In April 1937, the church was incorporated as the "Apostolic Faith Christian Church Association, Inc." In the same year, a 3-story Brownstone at 296 West 92nd Street on the Upper West Side was located and it was for sale! Mrs. Anna Franko, widow of Nahan Franko, was selling the classic Brownstone. The property was purchased for less than $20,000 and 296 West 92nd Street would prove to be a wonderful investment for the congregation, and served as its home for the next 70 years.
In annual business meeting minutes from October 9, 1940, the following church leaders and officials were elected: Deacons: Bro. Andrew Taylor, Bro. Everett Gates, Bro. Stanley Chambers, Bro. Myron Marachich, & Bro. Adolph Schultz; Trustees: Bro. Edward Plewa & Bro. Marachich; SS Superintendent: Bro. Andrew Taylor; Asst. SS Superintendent: Bro. Edward Plewa; SS Teachers: Adults, Bro. Urshan & Bro. Gates; Young People's Call, Bro. Stanley Chambers & Bro. Paul Box; Primary, Sis. Morris. During this time, Brother Chambers would serve as the Asst. Young People's Leader, Trustee and SS Superintendent.
In 1948, Pastor Urshan felt the call back to the foreign missions field and the church called his son, Rev. Nathaniel A. Urshan from Indianapolis, Indiana to serve as its third pastor. Brother & Sister Urshan accepted the call and led the church for approximately 1 year. During most of the entire year, Brother Urshan had been very sick and it was clear to him that God was calling him back to Indiana. In 1949, the Urshan's resigned, returned to Indianapolis and took the pastorate of Calvary Tabernacle which he pastored for 30 years. Of course, Brother Urshan would also serves as our UPCI General Superintendent for 23 years (1978-2001).
Brother Andrew Urshan returned to oversee the church until a new pastor was found. Brother Benjamin D. Urshan was asked to pastor the church but did so only from February to June 1950. In mid-1950, Rev. Paul H. Box, former editor of the Pentecostal Heraold, accepted the church's pastorate. Brother Box would resign in 1953 and later served as the UPCI Foreign Missions Secretary. Brother John F. Bolton pastored for a short time in 1953-1954 when Rev. Howard A. Goss assumed the pastorate as Pastor Pro Tem. Brother Goss pastored from November 1954 to August 16, 1956 during which time the church affiliated with the United Pentecostal Church with headquarters in St. Louis, Missouri and changed it's name to the United Pentecostal Church, reflecting this new relationship. By September 1956, Brother W. R. Pair was pastor and remained so until late 1958. Brother T. J. Miller was elected pastor in January 1959 and resigned in May 1960 after recommending the church move to Hempstead, New York. His pastoral tenure completed a very turbulent decade of instability in leadership and direction. As a result of this instability, the congregation shrunk to a faithful few.
The Lord would answer the church's critical need for stable leadership in 1960 when Rev. Forrest A. Nickerson came to lead the congregation. For twenty years (1960-1980), Brother Nickerson would faithfully minister to this growing congregation with anointed Bible teaching and preaching. During his time in New York City, the church would see great blessing and a rapidly growing church family. In late 1980, the Nickerson's retired from active ministry, and Brother Daniel Vannoy served as pastor from February 1981 until November 1984. Brother Vannoy was succeeded by his brother, Rodney E. Vannoy, who served from 1985 until 1992. Rodney Vannoy re-incorporated the church in 1987 (Brother Urshan's original incorporation had been for only 50 years) and as a result, changed the church's name to the United Pentecostal Church of Greater New York.
But in spite of its name change, over its many years at the 296 West 92nd Street location, the Manhattan congregation had become affectionately known as "the 92nd Street Church," and still today, many continue to refer to it that way. Also, as the "mother church" for the greater New York area, the 92nd Street Church has been the home church for many ministers and saints who have gone on to lead the national church or establish other churches throughout North America. Among these are three UPCI General Superintendents: Rev. Howard A. Goss, Rev. Stanley W. Chambers, and Rev. Nathaniel A. Urshan, two national leaders: Rev. Paul H. Box and Rev. W. R. Pair, Apostolic Bible Institute founder: Rev. S. G. Norris, and numerous pastors and ministers: Rev. Lincoln Graham, Sr. (St. Albans, NY), Rev. Micheal Mitchell (Brooklyn, NY), Rev. Paul Sibblies (Bronx, NY), Rev. Clarence Henry (Ozone Park, NY), Rev. Desmond Hamilton (Stamford, CT) and many, many others.
On Father's Day in 1993, Rev. R. M. Buie preached his first message in New York City and was subsequently elected pastor on August 8, 1993. At the time Pastor Buie assumed the pastorate, the church had been through the Great Depression, World War II, the Korean War, the Viet Nam War and the Gulf War. The church had also experienced the many changes in American society and was still the only UPCI church in Manhattan, one of the most politically and socially liberal cities in America. In the Spring of 1997 and after a 60-year history there, the 92nd Street church property was sold and the congregation temporarily moved to 555 West End Avenue (about 5 blocks south of 92nd Street) and held its services at St. Agnes Boys High School's auditorium and classrooms. An intense search for a new permanent location began in earnest. In September 1998, a 2-story, full basement commercial building was located at 539-541 West 125th Street and that property was purchased on October 14, 1998. The church held its first service at the new location on November 1, 1998. The congregation occupied the new location while, at the same time, a complete demolition, engineering changes and total renovation were accomplished. The church congregation labored for almost 24 months on the project, and on July 1, 2000, Rev. Stanley W. Chambers, a former church leader, dedicated the Manhattan Pentecostal Church, UPCI.
Pastor and Sister Buie celebrated their 10th pastoral anniversary in August 2003 with Rev. A. W. Buie, Sr., Pastor Buie's father, and Rev. N. A. Urshan as special guest speakers. The Lord continues to bless this wonderful church family as it responds to His calling and purpose. After a long and storied history in the 20th century, the church boldly and expectantly faces the challenges of the 21st century and the soon second coming of the Lord Jesus. May the God continue to anoint all that is accomplished through His Name and Spirit.