Blooming Grove Congregation Church Plans 200th Year Celebration-pages 8,9
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Thursday, August 27, 1959
Blooming Grove Congregational Church Plans 200th Year Celebration
Evening Pageant Shows High And Low Points of History
From Log Cabin Meetings, through heresy charges, and up to one of the strongest churches in the Hudson Valley. Two Hundred years of active worship service to the area will be the central theme of the Bi-centennial Celebration to be held on September 5 and 6 at the Congregational Church of Blooming Grove.
With almost every member of the congregation contributing to the program, the celebration promises to be one of the most memorable of the current, history laden summer.
Events will begin at 2 P.M. Saturday afternoon, with an informal reception and display of historical items. In the evening, beginning at 8:30,a pageant of the past and future will be presented. For those wishing to come early and stay late, a chicken barbecue supper will be held from 5:30 to 7:30 P.M. so visitors will not have to leave the grounds for their evening meal.
Sunday's activities will be conducted on a more formal theme, beginning with the 11 A.M. service of dedication and Holy Communion, with Dr. Nels F.S. Ferre of Andover Newton Theological School as the speaker. Following the services, a buffet luncheon will be served. The afternoon program, beginning at 3 P.M. will include the ground breaking of the new parish building and a program Handel's "Messiah."
A thirty page brochure, sketching the history of the church, has been written after much research by Mrs. G. Warren Borden. It will be available at the time of the Bi-Centennial Celebration. Interesting highlights from the brochure follows:
It is believed that the original settlers of this rural community came from Long Island in the early part of the 1700's, when there were sixty families in Orange County. At first, the Blooming Grove settlers felt they couldn't support a church and minister as the families were so widely scattered. Around 1750 the community started "cottage prayers" which were held in various homes. Ministers came on horseback as missionaries when they were available. This meant any day of the week or anytime.
A regular minister, Enos Ayres, was finally called in 1758 and a church was organized. The land was deeded in November of the same year by Jacob Blackwell of Queens Co., who "gave, granted, and confirmed unto said congregation for the purpose of a meeting house, burying ground, and school house, a small lot of land, two acres and a half, and fourteen square rods." A meeting house was built sometime during the following year. Regular pastors served into the Revolutionary War years, and then the church was served by itinerant ministers until 1786.
Ever since then regular pastors have occupied the parsonage. The Church was legally incorporated in 1806 as the "Presbytery Congregation".
In 1823 the old meeting house was sold at public auction, the entire building piece by piece in two currencies -ninety six dollars in cash and thirty-eight English pounds. Within the next nine months the present white clapboard building was completed. It contained the largest auditorium without interior support in the East at that time; seating as many as 1000, including balconies; and in 1923 it was still the largest in the county. An unusual aspect of the church - is that slave galleries are still to be seen on the upper level, to the left and right of the pulpit. (originally, the choir sat in a balcony between these two galleries before the pipe organ was installed).
This was part of the church's original plan, as slavery was not abolished in New York State until 1825, and did not take effect in Orange County until 1830. An interesting sidelight is that in these early days, services of prayer were led by an inspired slave member of the congregation.
The interior walls of the church are finished with a plaster known as "Puty" finish, the formula for which has now been lost. It presents a cloudy grey surface which looks rough, but is very smooth to the touch.
One of the first churches to become part of the Plan of Union of 1801, this Presbytery Congregation was served by Presbyterian ministers, but retained its Congregational polity.
In 1833, heresy charges were brought against the Rev. James Arbuckle, the minister at that time. This resulted in the Presbytery of Hudson declaring Mr. Arbuckle unfrocked and the pulpit vacant. The congregation, however, refused this action, withdrew from the Presbytery, and retained their minister for an additional fourteen years.
It was in 1871 that the church voted to become the Congregational Church of Blooming Grove and assumed a responsible place in the Hudson River Association and the New York State Conference of Congregational Churches.
In 1923 in the pastorate of Rev. Elwood Corning, the Congregation celebrated the Centennial of it's fine old meeting house with an appropriate pageant, directed by Mrs. Helen Tuthill Earl, who is still an active member of the congregation .
(Continued on Page 10)
All Photos by George Dammann
HAPPY ANNIVERSARY - Almost unchanged in outward appearance since its construction in 1823 is the Congregational Church of Blooming Grove, located on Route 94, between Washingtonville and Chester. The large white building was, at the time of its construction, the largest structure without interior support ever built in this area. One unusual feature of the building is the fact that, unlike almost every church built, in that era the designers did not include a steeple, butinstead installed the bell under the eaves. Another point of interest is that the altar is located at the front entrance, directly behind the two windows. Entrance is by the two doors located on either side of altar. At night, the church is illuminated by outside spotlights.
BENEDICTION - Rev. Samuel Reinke pronounced Benediction from the Altar. Flanking the altar are the choir lofts, one of which is visible on the right of the Reverend. Above the choir loft can be seen one of the slave galleries. These galleries once ran completely across the front of the Church, but had to be divided when the organ was installed in 1902. The curtain behind Rev. Reinke hides the organ keyboard. Entrance to the church is by doors on either side of the altar.
New and Old - At left to is a view of the church interior as it was prior to 1900, while the picture at right shows the interior today. The large organ, behind the altar was presented to the church in 1902 by David Moffat, and is currently played by Mrs. Clara Gerow. The square, box type pews were, at one time owned and rented by members of the congregation. Several pews had to be removed when the organ was installed, but families holding deeds to the pews delayed installation by refusing to give up their seats. The argument reached such proportions that members brought the case to court, where the judge ruled that the pew owners did not have to give up the seats to allow the organ to come in. After the decision was handed down, the owners then gave their pews to the church, and accepted other seats in return. Even though pew rental is not observed today, most of the members still use the same pews at each service.
SLAVE GALLERIES - Used for the few years during which slavery was allowed in New York were the old Slave Galleries above and behind the pulpit. The rough wooden benches shown provided seating space for about 16 slaves. New York abolished slavery in 1825, two years after the Church was constructed. The galleries are no longer in use, but are still maintained for their historical importance. On the last pew can be seen ancient wooden collection boxes, probably built at about they same time the church was constructed.
BASEMENT GRAVES - Located under the floor at the rear of the church are two graves of departed ministers. At right is the tombstone of R v. Benoni Bradner, A. M., departed Jan. 24, 1804 at the age of 71. The broken stone at left marks the grave of Rev. Samuel Parkhurst, departed 1768 at the age of 29. Rev. Parkhurst served the churh for about six months while Rev. Bradner served from 1786 to 1802. '
HAPPY SMILES are shown by Reverend Samuel Reinke. and his family during a quiet night at home. L to r are David Hugh, Donald S., Mrs. Wilma G. The Reverend and John M. Reinke. Dave, a senior at Washingtonville Central High, was named Junior Class President and King of the Prom last year, and was active on the soccer, basketball and golf teams. Don was Vice-president of the Freshman class last year, and John is currently a student at O.C.C.C. A native of York, Penna., Rev. Reinke has served churches in Ohio, Staten Island and, prior to Blooming Grove, Norwich, N. Y. Mrs. Reinke is a native of Ohio and has taught school for ten years in her home state and ten years in Staten Island.
ANNIVERSARY PLAQUE -Reverend Samuel Reinke inspects a plaque placed on the church following the l00th. Anniversary celebration held in 1923. The plaque reads: "1823-1923 This tablet commemorates the one hundredth anniversary of the erection of this House of Worship which displaced the first building constructed in 1759. Presented by the Young Peoples Club of the Blooming Grove Church at the Centennial Celebration, May 27, 28,29, 1923.
Blooming Grove Congregation Church Plans 200th Year Celebration-pages 8,9for