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The “Singing, Praying” Walnut Avenue Christian Church Celebrates 100th Anniversary

Rev. James and Pamela Cassidy

Rev. James and Pamela Cassidy

“Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in the time of need” is the scripture verse theme for the 100th Anniversary Celebration of The Walnut Avenue Christian Church, at 601 – 28th Street and Walnut Avenue in Niagara Falls on October 7th-9th.

Pastor James P. Cassidy invites all past members of the church and the Christian community to the special celebration.

There will be four Services: Friday at 7 PM, Saturday at 10 AM, Saturday at 7 PM and concluding with their Sunday morning Service at 11 AM, followed by a banquet at the Como Restaurant at 2 PM.

Rev. Michael Player, General Overseer of the International Fellowship of Christian Assemblies (formerly the C.C.N.A. and before that The Italian Christian Assemblies) will be the guest speaker on Sunday morning.

Walnut Avenue Christian Church’s beginnings dates back to the year 1915, when a group of Italian Pentecostal converts began to meet in a home at 1919 Walnut Avenue, under the leadership of a devout Christian couple: Mr. & Mrs. Joseph Vallacorse.  Weeks later a group of families from the Pekin and Holly churches moved to the city of Niagara Falls, and together they organized an Italian Bible class, led by Mr. Leonard Colucci.  The 25 members met at the church for about a year.

The Pentecostal Movement that took place after the turn of the century gave birth to many new churches, and the Niagara Falls church was a starting point of the expansion of the Italian Pentecostal churches into New York State.

In 1916, the Rev. Maximillian Tosetto came from the Italian Assembly Church in Chicago, Illinois, and became the first pastor of the American Pentecostal Church.  The first services were held at the Vallacorse home at: 1919 Walnut Avenue, in Niagara Falls.

Rev. & Mrs. Maximillian Tosetto

Later on, The Rev. Louis Terragnoli was invited to serve as the first associate pastor, after returning from a missionary tour to South America.  Under the leadership of the two Pastors the church became incorporated as the Italian Christian Church.

The church started in a house on Walnut Ave. This photo is from 1919.

As the congregation multiplied, two adjacent lots were purchased on 19th Street, between Pine Avenue and Walnut Avenue and the first church building was erected at 631-19th St.  In 1922, the ever growing number of believers led to the need for further expansion, so the building was split in two and moved a distance apart with a new section added to the middle.

In 1927, a major Convention of churches was held at the 19th Street Church in Niagara Falls, NY, where the denomination changed its name to of the Christian Churches of North America (since not all of the new coverts were Italian) and adopted the first 12 Articles Of Faith.

Many of the members now enjoyed their newfound faith based on the Word of God, with the infilling of the Holy Spirit.  They were known as the “Singing/Praying Church”, but because of their whole-hearted Worship Services, they were often labeled “Holy Rollers” and ridiculed; people would open the church doors and throw tomatoes inside (according to long time members).

The flourishing Sunday School Department once had 250 students.   Again they outgrew the structure.  Groundbreaking for the second church building took place in 1958 at the corner of Walnut Avenue & 28th St. (601-28th St.), now the present location.  Many of the members of the church donated their time, talent and labor,  and donations from members paid for much of the materials, to see their dream accomplished.  Later, the old church building on 19th Street was raised and a parking lot now occupies the property.

The church has always been well-known for their Full Gospel Bible teaching and have sent out many men and women as Pastors, Missionaries and Christian Workers all over the United States and the World.

Niagara Christian Academy was a big part of the ministry, birthed when the members desired a Christian education for their children and a haven from the worldly ideas being taught in public schools.  It was instituted in 1968; The Rev. John DelTurco was pastor at the time.  Ellanet Ventresca was the first principal and classes originally were held in partitioned areas in the Fellowship Hall, in the basement of the church.  Ellanet can tell you of the construction workers bursting through the wall to join the new school addition to the church hall during classes.  On Fridays the children were encouraged to bring a Talent or Testimony to the Chapel Services.  Area Pastors were invited to minister, as well.  It was a  ministry of the church, for 30 over years, until closing in the fall of 2006.  Their motto was:  “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”  Proverbs 22:6

Rev. and Mrs. John DelTurco

The school begat a Christian Child Care Center as well, named:  Small Beginnings Day Care Center on Niagara Street, which provided care under the Directorship of Miss Karen Aldrich, for many years.  Later on, Mrs. Susan Pennington-Burns took over as director, while principal of Niagara Christian Academy, as well.

The church as it appeared in 1958…

… and as it appeared in 1976.

Pastor James P. Cassidy came to pastor the church 14 years ago.  His team has been out on Pine Avenue and Main St. and Portage Rd.  The current focus is on the NFTA Bus Station.  This summer, three churches joined together for a Tent Revival:  Walnut Avenue Christian Church, Bethlehem Revival Temple and Word of Life.

Today the church is growing as gathers for weekly Sunday School and Worship Services. Weekly Bible Study is offered on Wednesday nights, with Prayer Meetings the first Wednesday of the month.  They are still known as the “Singing/Praying Church”.

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