Whether it was hosting food drives during the Great Depression, using its bell to alert people of air raid drills during WWII, or holding 24-hour prayer vigils during the Cuban Missile Crisis, the United Methodist Church of Bay Shore has long prided itself on looking out for the wider community.
Now, after nearly two centuries of giving, Bay Shore’s oldest house of worship can use some help of its own.
“The buildings need to be restored,” said the church’s pastor, the Rev. Wendy Modeste. “We can’t just do church, otherwise the buildings will fall apart.”
The property at East Main Street and Second Avenue is in need of maintenance and rehabilitation in its sanctuary, education buildings, and off-site parsonage.
There are also roofing issues caused by Superstorm Sandy, and chipping paint inside and outside the sanctuary.
To restore the property back to its Romanesque glory, United Methodist leadership is turning to the wider Bay Shore community to help raise funds.
“I think it takes all of us together in the community to fix problems,” said Modeste.
story continues below photo
After decades of weathering, this once gleaming Main Street landmark is deteriorating rapidly — and is in danger of becoming an eyesore.
Its condition has negatively affected membership and potential revenues, such as through hosting wedding ceremonies, church leaders say.
“Once people see peeling, they don’t stay long enough to realize the ministry that we have here,” said Modeste.
Less members also means fewer donations going toward programs like childcare and free soup kitchens.
The United Methodist Church points to the Great Recession of 2007-2012 as the start of its downward spiral. During those years, many members either left the island or began to tighten up wallets.
“We were struggling for a long time,” explained David Timmoney, president of the church’s board of trustees. “Bankruptcy looked like it was looming.”
But then things started back in the right direction, especially once Modeste was named pastor in the summer of 2014, says Timmoney.
With their desired pastor in place, the focus has been on returning the building — which was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2001 — to its former glory.
And there’s been some progress, such as the new $63,000 outdoor classroom that was donated by Head Start this past December.
story continues below photo
“The inside of the sanctuary is amazing, especially with the pressed tin, old wood work, and priceless stained-glass windows,”said Timmoney. “If we fix it up, we will get more members.”
In addition to new roof and paint, some of the other improvements include upgrading its outdated kitchen, fixing the steeple’s louvers, and repairing mildew damage in the basements.
The United Methodist Church is looking for $350,000 for its restoration list.
That figure is slightly higher than the $7,503 price it cost to build the original church in 1869, a building that today serves as the church’s Fellowship Hall.
It was $21,000 more in 1893 to erect the church sanctuary that still stands.
However, in those days, the biggest roadblocks for building weren’t necessarily monetary-based, as bricks were worth less than a penny. Many delays in building, for instance, were caused by the Civil War.
Although it took years to establish a permanent home for the United Methodist Church, its origins date back much further.
The congregation formed back in 1810, when the area was known as Penataquit. Since there was no established place of worship, people gathered at the home of a local man named John Doxee.
Fifty years later, John Doxee’s son Benjamin teamed up with eight other Bay Shore men to establish the Methodist Episcopal Church of Penataquit.
These men, Nathaniel Clock, Seth Clock, Alanson Seaman, Selah Wicks, Charles Hubbard, Eliphalet Snedacor, James Thurber and Treadwell Smith, are some of the oldest names in Bay Shore today.
The growing congregation would go on to serve people in need during the hardest times in the U.S.
The United Methodist Church reached outside the congregation for help about a month ago. There’s been a strong response thus far.
“You can see the history in this church; it is unbelievable,” said Donna Periconi, the president of the Chamber of Commerce of Greater Bay Shore.
Periconi, who is leading an effort to raise funds for the ailing establishment, is calling on everyone in the area to make a contribution.
“Any gifts, large or small, which are tax deductible, would be appreciated to save this sacred place that has held this hamlet together for centuries,” she said.
Hers isn’t the only organization that’s helping out.
The pastor at St. Patrick Roman Catholic Church in Bay Shore, Msgr. Thomas Coogan, put out a donation call in the church’s Sunday bulletin the week after Thanksgiving.
“Our people are citizens from Bay Shore, so we love downtown and its revitalization and the Methodist sanctuary is a beautiful landmark,” he said.
Msgr. Coogan said the two churches work well together in helping the people of Bay Shore.
“At times when we can’t have a (12 step) meeting, they do, and we have it when they don’t,” he said.
Modeste has been blown away by the support outside of her congregation.
“I think it is marvelous that we aren’t doing this on our own and our community is involved,” she said. “Someone walked in here one day and said, ‘I need to write a check.’ Thats a big deal.”
There is a community open house at the church on Feb. 4 from 2 to 4 p.m.
So far, $64,000 has been collected, and the plan is to begin some of the upgrades during the spring.
For anyone looking to help in these efforts, checks can be made out to the Bay Shore United Methodist Church and mailed to 107 East Main Street, Bay Shore, NY, 11706, c/o Rev. Wendy Modeste.
Or, checks can be mailed to the Bay Shore Chamber of Commerce at P.O. Box 5110, Bay Shore, New York 11706.
The church has also applied for a $100,000 New York Annual Conference grant.