History of Living Christ Church
“We love Living Christ Church and have been blessed and discipled and have met God here all through our lives. I feel like I’m coming home whenever I can be here.” – Helen Ellenberger, charter member and life-long C&MA International Worker.
Living Christ Church, still known to many by its former name of Simpson Memorial Church, started when students at Nyack College began reaching out to Nyack. From 1941 to 1944 various students led Sunday evening services and an afternoon Sunday school. Over time a group of 10-12 interested individuals also began meeting weekly in homes to pray for the start of a Christian and Missionary Alliance (C&MA) church in Nyack, since the two nearest ones were in Manhattan and Kingston.
On March 26, 1945, an organizing service was held in the home of church leader Don Byers with a charter membership totaling 56 by the end of the year. The church was named Simpson Memorial Church in memory of Dr. A.B. Simpson, founder of the denomination. Dr. C. Donald McKaig, a professor at Nyack College, was asked to become pastor, a position he agreed to take as a “temporary assignment” but where he stayed until 1960.
Services were initially held in a rented fraternal hall at the corner of Franklin Street and High Avenue, which at one time had housed the German Presbyterian Church. The growing congregation soon bought property at South Broadway and Voorhis Avenue in South Nyack. Many people in the congregation helped with construction and the first services were held in the new facility in 1951. At the time the membership was 137 and the Sunday school enrollment 185. The first addition occurred in 1957 with a choir loft and baptistery on the main floor, and Sunday school rooms on the floor beneath. Included in this endeavor is Cahart Hall, named for a benefactor who had been influenced as a growing boy by A.B. Simpson, and then in his aging years by Donald McKaig. The next phase in the original plan was to add a balcony, bringing total seating capacity in the sanctuary to 450. The first parsonage, a house and garage at the corner of Voorhis and Piermont Avenues, was built around 1929. (A second parsonage in Upper Nyack was built in 1963 and purchased in 1968.)
Rev. Clarence Drake pastored 1961-1968 as the church prospered. Then under Dr. Maurice Irvin’s 1969-1977 direction, leadership and teaching, the congregation experienced unprecedented growth in numbers, facilities and programs. Youth activities flourished, vibrant children’s programming ranged from Sundays to midweek to Vacation Bible School, couples’ groups were started, and many home Bible studies began. The increase in numbers led to holding two worship services on Sunday morning, and the adding of the church’s first youth pastor. The parking lot on the corner of South Broadway and Voorhis, diagonally across from the church building, was bought and developed in 1978.
In 1972, when an old riverfront building on Piermont Avenue became available, the church purchased it to add more room for the youth programs and to provide apartments for two staff members. It was named Olson Center after Dr. Lee Olson, who oversaw and built the church’s music ministry during its opening years through 1960.
Rev. Neal Clarke served as senior pastor 1978-1989, emphasizing spiritual growth and discipleship, also welcoming the use of dramatic productions. Rev. Richard Sessoms served 1990-1993, adding a contemporary style of worship to one of the services, and assisted by Rev. Doug Anthony as Minister of Music and Dr. Jonathan Schaeffer as associate pastor.
Rev. Ed Mangham served faithfully 1994-2001 and Rev. Ron Gifford was pastor 2002-2005, followed by an interim season of refocusing led by Rev. Jim Van Yperen. The congregation then voted to make a name change to Living Christ Church of the Christian & Missionary Alliance. Rev. Tim Pettit then served as pastor 2007-2011 under the constant emphasis of building a bridge to Nyack with the love of Jesus.
Dr. Martin Sanders, President of Global Leadership Inc., began serving as Interim Pastor in 2012. In this interim season, Living Christ Church sought after redefining core values, healing past wounds, repentance, and preparation for a new season in the life of the church. In the fall of 2013, LCC hired Pastor Jeffrey Salvesen to lead the church to deeply connect with God through worship and prayer; to empower people for service by creating disciples, teaching and equipping; and to change lives through healing and sending disciple makers.
Dr. A.B. Simpson, who in many ways inspired what is now Living Christ Church, believed that a church should become “an aggressive spiritual movement … for the people of all classes … designed to reach the neglected peoples of earth.” As Living Christ Church continues forward, the ongoing desire and prayer is for God to do just that and to be members that connect with each other by creating a community that is welcoming to all, serving sacrificially and becoming reconcilers.
(This narrative was adopted from a church history pamphlet titled “50 Years…A Historical Sketch” and updated to include more current developments.)
Living Christ Church is privileged to belong to The Christian & Missionary Alliance, a unique denomination and movement formed in New York City. For many years its national office was here in Nyack. The Alliance (C&MA) is a light-bearing, Jesus-centered missions and church-planting movement with the deeper life at its heart.
Find our more about The Christian & Missionary Alliance.