By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
Where once stood a towering, Romanesque-in-miniature brick sanctuary, now resides a little white country church, its interior “starkly beautiful,” as John Wesley would want it.
“When I met with the committees, they were insistent that they wanted a little country church,” said Jim Hundt, the architect who designed the new Milford United Methodist Building. “They wanted it to have an Adirondack style, very comfortable, very open.”
The first service, which was standing-room only, was Sunday, June 9 – Pentecost.
“On the night of March 12, 2017, who would have predicted that we would be sitting here in this beautiful, starkly beautiful space, ready to begin a brand new chapter in this community,” said Pastor Sylvia Barrett in her sermon, “Emboldened and Empowered.” “On the night of Pentecost, the disciples came to an end of one chapter in their lives, and started a brand new chapter for themselves,”
Following the fire, the trustees formed several different committees to task with rebuilding. “It was never an option not to rebuild,” said Bob Moore, chairman of the church’s Board of Trustees and former Milford town justice.
The big thing in the design, all committees agreed, was to incorporate the three stained-glass windows that miraculously survived the fire.
It was a day of dedications, and not just the church itself.
The organ was dedicated to Dot Weir, who played music for the church for 67 years. “May every piece we play find its way up to you,” said Pastor Sylvia.
The main stained-glass window was dedicated to David Thorn’s parents; the two side ones to the Eggleston and Martin families.
“Those were a big feature and they were expensive,” said Hundt. “So we had to make compromises.”
Compromises included delaying on air conditioning, but no matter: though the temperatures were in the mid-70s by noon, a cool breeze blew through ranks of windows open on both sides of the sanctuary.
“We put in a lot of cottage-style windows that create a good cross-breeze,” said Hundt. “With so many modern buildings, you can’t open the windows, but these provide good lighting and great ventilation.”
Even the candelabras have a country touch, with bulbs styled to look like wide white candles set in simple, round metal frames.
And just because it’s old-fashioned doesn’t mean it doesn’t have modern touches, including two 83-inch TV screens, where lyrics and Biblical quotes are displayed so people can read and sing along. The church does not have pews, but chairs – brought over from the former Milford Manor Farms building that served as the church for the last year; attached, it will now be the social hall, where punch and cake were served after the service.
The new church was built entirely from donations and insurance, with no debt to the church itself. “Before we even started fundraising, we had $50,000,” said Barrett. “So many people stepped forward to help. We prayed a way forward and here we are.”
The first service included remarks from the Methodist Church’s district superintendent, Rev. Everett Bassett of Oneonta. “No other church has quite as marvelous a story as this one,” he said. “It’s been an amazing journey, and the level of leadership, vision and determination has been inspiring. That’s what shows up today. As a congregation, we will never forget the help we received.”
Longtime congregant state Sen. Jim Seward, R-Milford, gave the closing prayer.
“We are back, stronger than ever and looking forward to a new chapter of faith in this community,” said Barrett.