|Nassau County Museum/L.I. Studies Institute|
Many of Long Island's original settlers were people of deep religious conviction. They were determined to bring their religion with them when they traveled to the New World. Long Island has a wonderful variety of religions, each unique and special.
The Episcopal Church first came to Long Island as the Church of England. Until the Revolutionary War it was under the control of the Bishop of London and Long Island was part of the Diocese of London. After the American Revolution, American Episcopalians set up an independent church organization that became known as "the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States." The first establishment of the church in Suffolk County took place in Setauket.
Presbyterianism has a long history on Long Island. One of the nation's oldest Presbyterian congregations was founded in Southold in 1640. Since this was a church that dissented from the Church of England its members were often discriminated against. Being active Patriots in a land occupied by the British during the Revolution many of the early congregations were shut down or forbidden to meet. However, after the Revolution and particularly during the 19th Century this religion prospered not only on Long Island but throughout the United States.
Individuals of the Jewish faith have had a long presence in Long Island history. The first Jewish congregation in Long Island was Congregation Beth Elohim (House of God) founded in Brooklyn in 1851. The first synagogue building was Congregation Beth Israel, dedicated in 1862.
Between 1841 and 1847 three Lutheran congregations were formed in Brooklyn. Two of these had been members of Lutheran organization since 1847 - St. John's the Evangelist, on Maujer Street, and St. John's on New Jersey Avenue. The completion of the Long Island Railroad from Brooklyn to Hicksville brought the Lutheran religion into what is now Nassau County. Although the Lutheran religion has been on Long Island for a long time, Lutheran church buildings were built only a little over 100 years ago.The founder of the Methodist Church was John Wesley. The Methodist Movement began to find supporters in England and soon spread to the Northern part of Ireland. The Movement spread along the Atlantic Sea Coast and Westward, and on December 24, 1784 in Baltimore, some sixty lay preachers organized the Methodist Episcopal Church in America. One of the oldest Methodist societies was founded in Commack in 1783. The oldest Methodist Church on Long Island is the Searing Memorial Methodist Church in Albertson which was built in 1788. In 1805 the first Methodist Camp Meeting was held in Glen Cove.
|Nassau County Museum/Long Island Studies Institute|
The first Catholic churches on Long Island were founded in the 1830's. Catholics had not been welcome in many parts because their religion was considered so different from the more established Protestant churches that dominated the area. That began to change with the large influx of Irish, Italian and Polish immigrants to the New York area; today large numbers of new Hispanic immigrants attend Catholic churches across the island. The Diocese of Rockville Centre, centered at Rockville Centre's Saint Agnes Cathedral, is now the largest diocese in the United States.
The first Quakers are known to have landed on Long Island arrived in 1657 when a ship, en route to Boston, was blown off course and landed in New Amsterdam. Quakers believed in tolerance, friendliness with Native Americans and "brotherly love." They often faced discrimination and were often associated with witches. In 1657 group of Long Islanders protested the Governor's order to discriminate against the Quakers. They wrote the Flushing Remonstrance in which they argued "we are bound by the law of God and man to do good unto all men and evil to no man." In 1660 Mary Wright, a Quaker, was the first woman on Long Island ever accused of witchcraft (and as a result was banished). Gradually, Quakers began to play a large role in the economy and government of Long Island and many of its communities. A Meeting House was built at Matinecock as early as 1671; one at Jericho in 1676; at Flushing in 1694, Bethpage in 1698, and Westbury in 1702. Quaker worship had become free by this time and the Society of Friends grew. Elias Hicks, a famous Quaker preacher, led the more liberal group of Quakers, and after his death, the town of Hicksville was founded to honor him.
The African Methodist Episcopal Church in the United States dates back to 1798 when its founder, Richard Allen, a former slave formed a small congregation of freed slaves in Philadelphia. Several congregations were formed on Long Island-the Brooklyn congregations dates to 1818, the Setauket congregation to 1815 and the Amityville congregations was founded in 1839.Go back to Main Menu