Posted at: 06/04/2012 12:02 AM
| Updated at: 06/04/2012 12:21 AM
By: Dan Levy
GLOVERSVILLE - The first Presbyterian Church of Gloversville was dedicated about a year after the end of the Civil War -- in May 1866. Sunday afternoon, the congregation gathered for the final time inside their sanctuary at the corner of Fulton and Bleecker Streets, the latest victim of hard times and a dwindling membership.
The final service not only ends 148 years of history, it also ushers in a new era of uncertainty.
"Congregations are dwindling and people are busy with so many other things that they're not coming to church on Sunday morning," says Lynn Ficili, a member of the First Congregational United Church of Christ, just down the street. "It's too bad that all of our churches aren't this full every Sunday. There but for the grave of God it could have been our church."
The Session, a board of elders responsible for the mission and government of the church, voted last fall to recommend that the congregation dissolve. In September, the 46 church members who remained took the recommendation to heart, and agreed to disband.
"I know they're sad about it," said Cookie, whose a member of the Methodist Church in Gloversville but stopped by at the final service. "The choice they had to make, I wound not want to be in their position but I think they made the right choice."
The choice was especially difficult for Sherry Bowler.
"I was baptized here," she proudly stated. "I have a lot of good memories of the youth group and everything that went on here and it's sad to see places like this closing."
"It's something that I never thought I would see happen but with everything time changes," said Kevin Lake, who says he's a member of another church now, but had to come back to First Presbyterian, where he spent his childhood. "I remember my days here, growing up as a child. My sister was here, I was here, my grandmother, my grandfather, my uncles. I've had the whole enchilada."
As families move on to other places of worship, the First Presbyterian ministry will -- in a sense -- continue. Items belonging to the church will be donated to other nearby congregations that have experienced great loss.
The Mayfield Central Presbyterian Church, which was destroyed by fire in April of last year, will get some of the items. The Schoharie Presbyterian Church, which was destroyed by flood waters from Hurricane Irene last August, will get others.
"I know how devastated we were in thinking we might not be able to recover and I'm always sad when we lose a Presbyterian church," said Alice Sutch, a member in Schoharie who made the trip up to Gloversville.
"It really makes me wonder what's going to happen in the future," Lake says, "If it comes to the point where they tear (this church) down again, like most of them around here, it's going to be another sad day for the community."
The First Presbyterian Church has also been running the local food pantry in Gloversville for many years. That ministry will be taken over by the First Congregational United Church of Christ on East Fulton Street.