This week Southeast Queens mourns the passing of the Rev. John Boyd, pastor of New Greater Bethel Ministries, who leaves behind a legacy of religious dedication, community service and a thriving church. He died of natural causes at Bellevue Hospital on July 11 at the age of 85.
Boyd started New Greater Bethel Ministries in 1972. He erected a small tent on the corner of Linden and Francis Lewis boulevards in Cambria Heights that over the years grew into a thriving ministry with more than 2,000 members. In 1975, the church acquired the Cambria Heights theater complex and that became its new home.
The congregation established a food pantry and a soup kitchen, giving free meals to hundreds of homeless individuals. Boyd also created the Set Free Prison Ministry, to help meet the spiritual needs of the incarcerated.
“He was a very sensitive man, and he cared about people,” his son, the Rev. John Boyd II said Tuesday. “He always had a word of wisdom for you.”
Greater Bethel created a 24-hour prayer line, with counselors ready to minister to those in need, even in the middle of the night. The church also spread its message of faith through the Voice of Bethel radio broadcast, reaching nearly 150 million listeners worldwide.
“He was a very compassionate human being, who was always working towards the betterment of mankind,” Boyd’s son said. “He spread the word of God every day of his life, not just from the pulpit, but wherever he was.”
In 1993, the congregation expanded to include a location at 215-32 Jamaica Ave. in Queens Village, which could accommodate 1,500 people, and contained a Christian literature and media center, a drama center and recording and television studios.
Boyd was married to his wife, Margie, for 65 years and the couple has five children, all of whom pursued careers in ministry. Boyd studied at the Manhattan Bible Institute and earned his Doctrine of Divinity from the United Christian College.
In January 2000, he had a massive stroke while preaching at the pulpit. Three years later he suffered a heart attack. But despite those medical setbacks, he was able to make a full recovery and soon returned to preaching.
“He was a strong man,” his son said, “and that strength was something people were drawn to.”
Boyd received numerous awards for his spiritual work including being awarded “Man of the Year” by The New York Christian Times. Superintendent Brian Fischer of the Queensborough Correctional Facility recognized Boyd for his outstanding work with the Inmate Community Improvement Program.
On Friday, July 20, Boyd will be honored with a closed-casket salute at 8 p.m. under the Big Gospel Tent at Roy Wilkins Park, located at Merrick and Foch boulevards.
On Saturday, July 21, at 10 a.m. he will be transported by a horse-drawn hearse to 117-05 Francis Lewis Blvd., the original site of his ministry, “as a symbol of his triumphant entry into his heavenly resting place.” After that, white doves will be released into the sky on his behalf.
The body will lay in state for the remainder of the day until 5 p.m. at New Greater Bethel Ministries at 215-32 Jamaica Ave., where there will be a service consisting of singing, special presentations from elected officials and moments of reflections by congregants and other mourners.
The funeral service will take place at the church on Sunday, July 22, at 6 p.m. On Monday, July 23, mourners will leave from the church at 10 a.m. for the burial at Pinelawn Memorial Park Garden Mausoleums in Farmingdale, NY. For more information, the church can be reached at (718) 740-4357.
The whole family stayed with him for the entire length of his ministry,” Boyd’s son said. “He was a very loving, yet stern type of father, but he still had a sense of humor at times. He was always very serious about his work.”