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Millerton's Methodist church tries to stay viable

MILLERTON — Whenever a major shift occurs — especially in a settled small town — residents often wonder, “What’s next?”

That was the question when the Millerton Presbyterian Church announced last week its coming January closure brought on mainly by financial challenges. Many now wonder what might happen to the historic United Methodist Church — just across the street from soon-to-be-shuttered Brown Church.

The Methodist church stands tall and bright with its gleaming white paint and vibrant red door at the corner of Main Street and Dutchess Avenue, its front lawn home to the village’s Veterans Park.

The answer, provided by Church Trustee Jim Campbell, is encouraging. Of the self-described “small congregation with a big heart,” he said, “You don’t have enough membership — and that’s true of any church.

“On the other hand, we do try to keep going, and thankfully we have organizations that are involved here at the church with us, and that all helps financially,” he added.

Campbell, a Millerton native who has long been involved with trying to help the church survive both financial challenges and the need for major and costly structural and maintenance repairs (the roof, the furnace, etc.), said support has come from the North East Community Center’s (NECC) year-round Farmers Market; concerts, which he anticipates will return after the coronavirus pandemic passes; and support from Townscape, which uses the space for staging its village-wide hanging of Christmas lights and spring planting of flowers.

“We try to make ourselves available to other organizations and groups so they can utilize the building,” said Campbell. “That includes storing the Main Street flags for the American Legion.”

Recognizing how important it is for the community to have a central location to gather for important events, he cited the recent funeral of beloved town shopkeeper, Phil Terni.

“His family asked if we would do that because his church — the Catholic church — had closed” adding that “Phil and his family had always supported our church.”

With the iconic Terni’s store across the street from the Methodist church, Campbell said, “Of course we were very close. We were actually honored to do it and glad that we could provide that space” for the well attended memorial of the man who everyone in Millerton — and beyond — seemed to know.

Of churches elsewhere in the region, Campbell said, “They’re all having difficulty and that’s no secret. It’s just the way it is…You’re asking people to give time and money.”

One of the ways in which Methodist churches are able to continue functioning is to work in partnership with others, including in providing pastoral leadership.

That role in Millerton  is currently being filled by Nathan Badore, a technician at the Pine Plains Pharmacy who grew up in that town and is now in the process of working toward full time clergy certification.

About two years ago, he began as a substitute  pastor and in July he took over the Millerton duties from Pastor Christine Lindeberg when she was relocated, a process that happens about every five years.

Until Badore is “certified,” in about another five years, he will be able to continue to conduct services, but the “blessings for the sacraments” of communion, baptism and marriage, are provided either on or off site by other clergy.

In addition to Millerton, Badore serves in the role as pastor at the Methodist churches in Pine Plains, Pleasant Valley, Elizaville and Milan with services scheduled on a rotating basis. There is “a lot of time on the road” while he also tries to be sure that people know he is available to them.

During the pandemic, joint Zoom worship services for all five churches were conducted from Pine Plains until restrictions were gradually lifted.

Badore said he believes keeping the physical church in the village of Millerton is important because “there is definitely a need for an opportunity for connection… I think it is very important for emotional and mental health for a lot of people as well as for the community…We as people are inherently social and want to be connected.”

He emphasized the importance of the church’s communicants, which typically number around 16, as the effort continues to keep the church viable. Of those, three trustees, Jim Campbell, George Kaye and Dave VanDebogart, are critical, he said.

Although no definite decisions have been made to pick up some of the social services once provided by the Millerton Presbyterian Church, such as its food pantry and medical equipment closet that will no longer be available due to its impending Jan. 23 closure, Badore said plans might evolve following a meeting in the coming days.

In addition to regular Millerton Sunday Services at 10:30 a.m. on the first and third Sundays of the month, Advent observations include Zoom sessions on Thursdays at 7 p.m.

A Christmas Eve service will be held at 2 p.m. at the church, located at 6 Dutchess Ave.

For more information, call 518-789-3138.

Donations to help support the Millerton United Methodist Church may be sent to P.O. Box 812, Millerton, NY 12546.

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