NEW YORK—First Presbyterian Church doesn’t fit in on its block. The white, New England-style clapboard building is an anachronism tucked among the chain stores, Bangladeshi food stands, and halal grocers of Jamaica, Queens. On a Sunday morning, people from a dozen or more countries might show up for the 10 a.m. service; women in geles and bright, African-print dresses sit in the pews alongside ladies in floppy church hats. On a bulletin board in the recc hall next door, the congregation has posted a display about its 354-year history. Amid the news clippings and sketch drawings, one artifact sticks out: a letter from Donald Trump.
As far as Patrick O’Connor, the pastor, knows, the Republican presidential nominee has never tried to visit the church where he grew up—or, at least, not in several decades. But when the congregation was raising money in 2012, its most famous alumnus sent over a check for $10,000. “I attended Sunday school at the church for a number of years,” Trump wrote. “Going to church was an important part of our family life and the memories for me are still vivid—of a vibrant congregation and a lot of activities.”
For much of the time when the Trumps were members, black families could attend, but not join—the church didn’t start integrating until the late 1950s and early ’60s. As families left the neighborhood and moved out to the suburbs, participation dropped. Membership had dipped below 100 people around the time Donald Trump moved to Manhattan following his stints in military and business school.