A Brief History of All Angels’ Church
-The original church, circa 1887-
All Angels' was founded in the 1830s as a mission to the poor by St. Michael’s Episcopal Church on 99th and Amsterdam. The missionary parish served Seneca Village, a settlement of African-Americans, Irish and German working poor. Archives describe All Angels’ as a place where “black and white worshipped harmoniously together.”
When the city condemned Seneca Village in order to create Central Park, All Angels' continued to minister from a nearby home until the parish was given a piece of property of its own. In 1859, the church was officially incorporated and established on the corner of 81st and Eleventh Avenue (West End Avenue).
In the 20th century, the church built a large sanctuary on its property and increased in size and stature. The All Angels' choir became known throughout the city, and at one point, All Angels’ services were broadcast on WOR radio. But even as it flourished, the church maintained its ministry to the poor: to give poor mothers and children a respite from the oppressive city summers, the church maintained All Angels’ Farm, a forerunner of the Fresh Air Fund.
Like many other churches in its neighborhood, All Angels' suffered a decline in the 1960s and 1970s. But even as the size of the congregation diminished, the church pioneered contemporary music and art in its worship, and maintained a host of programs for the benefit of the neighborhood: the DOME Project, the West Side Tenants’ Union, and the West Side Alliance. In the late 1970s, All Angels’ chose to give up three of their four buildings, including the grand sanctuary, and retain only the Parish Hall located on 80th between Broadway and West End Avenue. (The original All Angels’ pulpit remains on view at the American Wing of the Metropolitan Museum.)
In the only remaining property, the tiny remnant congregation began to grow again. In the 1980s a renewal of God’s spirit prompted All Angels to recommit to their original mandate to serve the poor. The church established its ministry to the homeless: a Sunday night community meal and shelter, along with a twice-a-week drop-in center, now called Pathways.
Today, All Angels’ parishioners are involved with house churches, community ministries, adult education, Sunday school, and many other activities and ministries. But from its humble beginnings to the present day, during times of prominence or hardship, All Angels' has always been characterized by service to the community anchored in worship of God through praise, prayer, and discipleship.