Immigration has always been an important aspect of life for people from the Caribbean – it is seen as necessary to find employment. Migration from the Caribbean into New York City – and particularly Brooklyn – was inevitable, and migrants needed a place to worship.
COGEF was born from the need of a group of Jamaicans living in Brooklyn to continue their tradition of worshipping in a New Testament Church of God. However, there were no churches of the same denomination in the immediate vicinity. The early population was largely comprised of Jamaican immigrants who experienced a sense of loss, sadness and disorientation due to the physical, biological, cultural, psychological, social and behavioral changes they experienced in New York City. The greater issues they faced were the absence of a familiar house of worship, a feeling of connectedness and a sense of permanency a home church brings. The birth of the Church of God helped alleviate culture shock by providing a sense of familiarity that reminded them of “home” – their country of origin.
COGEF’s visionaries and pioneers moved in faith to secure a rental property to begin meeting weekly. This small gathering quickly outgrew two consecutive rental properties, leading the budding congregation to purchase a permanent facility (our current building) at 409-15 East 95th Street. Through informal networking, this group of immigrants grew from 13 to more than 800 in 10 years. As a result of participating in the Church people were able to establish relationships and contribute to the larger society. It served as a haven for immigrants from various Caribbean countries – a support system for members’ interpersonal, emotional and religious needs by providing an avenue for assimilation, while maintaining their cultural identity and Church of God affiliation.
In the 1990s, COGEF remained the largest Church of God church in the state of New York. Based on its philosophies, property limitations and the great need for worship centers, it invested in sending some of its members to start and support new churches in and around New York City. For the past 15 years, even with significant migration of its members to other states and outgrowth of churches, COGEF has been able to consistently keep registered membership to at least 800.
Over the past 30 years, the face of members has changed, and the Church has evolved from a solely Caribbean population to a community hosting approximately 15 nationalities, COGEF is composed of nuclear and extended families and has a thriving children and youth population.
Our success can be measured by our membership growth; our involvement in helping to develop and launch more than 17 other churches in New York and New Jersey, offering 45 ministries to service Church and community needs, and serving thousands in the community.
At COGEF, we are continually working to make disciples that will have a lasting impact on the world.