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Amenia’s Presbyterian Church Closes

by Antonia Shoumatoff
Tue Dec 1st, 2015

Tiffany Window installed near the altar in the 1920's

“It is with great sadness, yet acceptance, that the United Presbyterian Church [held] its final service, Sunday, Nov. 22 at 10:00 a.m.  Our struggles to remain open under declining membership and financial shortfalls simply could not continue. We trust God to allow this chapter of our journey to end - we know that we will find new opportunities to spread His love and to serve others in His name. Thank you to all those who have supported our work and mission for these many long years. Blessings and Peace.”  From the church announcement on Facebook

One of the most historic churches in Amenia is closing its doors.  The building, parish house, along with the rectory will be offered for sale by the Hudson River Presbytery which oversees 82 churches in eight counties.

 Parishioners sing at their final Christmas concert in 2014

The church, founded in 1864, was renowned for its Christmas concerts and a Strawberry Festival in June which was the highlight of the Amenia calendar for the summer season.  Concerts on its Jardine organ by noted organists, including Will Carter, were another offering for the community along with barbeque dinners and bake sales.  Imagine Amenia, drumming circles, A.A., N.A., Scouts and many others held meetings in the parish hall.  

We were able to spend some time in the church with its Treasurer, Elanor Travis this week learning of the history of the church and admiring the Tiffany window and stained glass memorial to church members who served in the Civil War which reads like a Who’s Who of the families of Amenia.  

 

Jardine organ installed in the late 1800's

“We had less than 20 parishioners this year, and recently it dwindled down to six.  But what really broke us was the cost of fuel when it went way up a few years ago.  We paid $15,000 for the last year.  We put in a new furnace, that was not big enough to replace the two furnaces that had been there before and kept breaking down.”

There will be an official closing service with several ministers from the Presbytery officiating on January 24 (snowdate, January 30).

“They are calling it a celebration of the Life of the Church, but it feels more like a funeral,” said Doris Smith, longtime elder of the church, who has also been the church liason to the Wassaic Gridley Chapel which has recently been beautifully renovated under the auspices of a group of people from the community who formed a restoration committee.  

 

Exterior of church with multi-colored slate roofThe group raised $30,000, with help from the church to replace the slate roof, the chimney, fix the belltower, and paint the exterior.  Leo Blackman, a church restoration architect who lives in Wassaic donated his services and the church is now back to its full glory.  

The Gridley Chapel became part of the Amenia church congregation in 1991 when the two churches voted to merge. It is also now orphaned along with the Amenia church but has a happier prospect since there was a clause that if the church ever becomes defunct it must be returned to the Union Society, the religious corporation, started in the late 1800’s which owns the South Amenia Presbyterian Church, parish hall and rectory.

“We are hopeful that we may be able to re-group in the Gridley Chapel and are undergoing conversations about this with the Union Society,” explained Doris Smith.

The Amenia Presbyterian Church property will be offered for sale by the Hudson River Presbytery at the end of January after the closing service.