September 2017 marked the 30th Anniversary of New Life Fellowship Church. We have seen God’s faithfulness from our start in a small wooden church in Corona, Queens to the local and global movement it has become today. View the story of how New Life Fellowship began and the amazing things God has done during the last 30 years.
New Life Fellowship Church began in September 1987 in a small wooden church in Corona, New York on National Street. Beginning with a small team of eight to ten dedicated individuals, we set out to establish a high-quality church in Queens, New York City with a number of core commitments – passion for Jesus, quality community life built on small groups, a focus on grace, the bridging of racial, cultural, economic and gender barriers, taking the gospel to the streets, and engagement of the poor and marginalized.
The church grew rapidly, adding one hundred people in each of her first three years. By 1994 New Life was one church in two languages. Rapid growth however, masked the cracks and gaps in our spiritual foundation. Eventually, two hundred people moved down the street to launch a new Spanish church and New Life entered her “dark night of the soul.” This marked the beginning of a season of change and uncertainty, as New Life shifted from an emphasis on external, outward growth to an inward journey with Christ.
After a difficult season that culminated in Founding Pastor Pete Scazzero’s wife, Geri, quitting New Life, our founding pastors and the church finally realized: Emotional health and spiritual maturity are inseparable. It is not possible to be spiritually mature while remaining emotionally immature. That revelation changed our founding pastors, and slowly, all of New Life.
New Life began working this out practically – on all levels of the church. We began to focus on marriages as part of our discipleship, integrate emotionally healthy skills, and begin confronting the places at New Life where we had placed gifts over character. This was a large, momentous shift. As a result, God began to shift the culture and pace of New Life. Over the next seven years, New Life continued to pioneer emotionally healthy discipleship.
Emotional health was powerfully changing people at New Life, but people remained too busy. After a four-month monastic sabbatical in early 2004, Founding Pastors Pete & Geri Scazzero, profoundly transformed by their season of silence and solitude, began introducing the treasures of the contemplative tradition.
Like the introduction of emotional health, this was both a major, yet very powerful shift for our community. We slowed down our lives to be still before the Lord, practice Daily Offices and Sabbath-keeping, and begin exploring the development of our own personal “rule of life.”
After 10 years, we experienced only limited effectiveness in integrating emotional health and contemplative spiritual practices into the leading of the church. Finally, a number of events converged to prepare us for a conversion of leadership/personal integrity. Until this point, we often divided leadership into sacred/secular categories. Everything- our prayer, work, relationships, and rest is holy! It was to be our way (Rule) of Life. This led to a major focus on a holistic intentionality in our spiritual formation in our leadership and eventually throughout our church.
Because of our commitment to an in-depth transformational spiritual formation model, we sought to grow slowly, integrating people into our small groups and resisting the temptation to simply be a crowd.
A few major events expanded New Life into the fastest growth rate of her history. We formed a 3 person preaching team, moved from 2 to 3 services, and expanded the ministry of EHS to over 60 countries with the support of the Willow Creek Association. Our New Life Community Development Corporation established a permanent home here in our church building in Elmhurst. It serves thousands of Elmhurst/Corona community residents each month through its adult & youth programs.
In 2009, our founding Pastor, Pete & the Elders, initiated a transition in senior leadership at New Life. Our then Lead Associate Pastor, Rich Villodas, would take on the role of Lead Pastor in 2013. New Life dedicated four full years to ensure a thoughtful, prayerful, and intentional transition of leadership. As a result, the succession was an enormous success. Pete & Geri Scazzero remain at New Life to provide support and leadership where God would lead them and continue to develop leaders throughout the world through the Emotionally Healthy Spirituality movement that had transformed countless lives.
Since 2013, under Rich’s leadership, we have deepened our commitment to our 5Ms, placing greater emphasis on the connection between deep interior transformation and racial justice and reconciliation. We have launched the New Life School of Theology and Formation to train New Lifers in a comprehensive approach to discipleship. Our Community Development Corp continues to expand and EHS has gone further in the past few years, impacting hundreds of churches and thousands of people over the world. The future for New Life entails new congregations being formed and new leaders empowered in taking our mission and values to different parts of NYC and beyond.