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.”
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, practiced Daily Offices and Sabbath-keeping, and began exploring the development of our own personal “rule of life.”
After 10 years, 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. To this day, New Life CDC 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. 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 Discipleship movement that has transformed countless lives.
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 Formation to train New Lifers in a comprehensive approach to discipleship. New Life CDC continues to expand and Emotionally Healthy Discipleship (EHD), formerly known as Emotionally Healthy Spirituality, has gone further, impacting hundreds of churches and thousands of people over the world. The future for New Life entails forming new disciples and leaders empowered to live out our mission and values in different parts of NYC and beyond.