News of Otsego County

Milford United Methodist Church

2 Years, 2 Months, 28 Days After Inferno, A New Church

Joy & Relief

2 Years, 2 Months, 28 Days

After Inferno, A New Church

An standing-room-only crowd filled the “starkly beautiful” new Milford Methodist Church Sunday, June 9, replacing one razed by an arsonist on March 12, 2017. (Ian Austin/HOMETOWN ONEONTA & The Freeman’s Journal)

By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to

Annabel Wu, Erica Eggleston and Savyn Mazzarella were confirmed at the church dedication by Pastor Sylvia
Barrett and
District Superintendent Everett Bassett


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.

Congregation Gets Look At New Church’s Interior

Congregation Gets Look

At New Church’s Interior

Milford United Methodist Church members got a first look inside their new church in a slide show presented at last Sunday’s service. In large photo, Tom and Lola Rathbone pause in the wooden-beamed sanctuary.  Lola chairs the church’s Building Committee; Tom, the retired SUNY Oneonta assistant vice president/facilities, is adviser to the Building Committee.  Top left is the “lantern” that will light the way to the church. Bottom left is a view of the windows that will line each side of the sanctuary; three stained-glass windows from the original church that burned on March 12, 2017, will be installed in the main wall on the east side of the new building, which is due for completion in late spring. (Photos courtesy Milford United Methodist Church)
IN MEMORIAM: Dorothy Marie Smith Weir, 97; Organist For Milford Church


Dorothy Marie Smith Weir, 97;

67-Year Organist At Milford 

Dorothy Weir

MILFORD – Dorothy Marie Smith Weir, 97, the organist for 67 years at the Milford United Methodist Church, passed peacefully into the arms of the Lord Monday, Feb. 12, surrounded by her loving family after a short illness.

Dorothy was born in Bethany, Pa., the daughter of Methodist Reverend Joseph H. Smith and Marie E. Albertson.  She attended various schools prior to moving to Oneonta. Dorothy graduated from Oneonta High School in the Class of 1939. After graduation, she attended Syracuse University, majoring in Music and Fine Arts with a minor in organ.

Full House For New Senior Meal Site

It’s A Full House At

New Senior Meal Site

Sheila Bernier and Terri Coy, servers with the Trinity Serving Group, prepare plates for Sandy Andrews, Tom Rathbone, and Nancy Wycoff, Milford, at the inaugural Senior Meal Site this morning at the Milford United Methodist Church. 40 seniors gathered for a roast pork lunch with sweet potatoes, spinach and chocolate chip cookies, followed by a brief address from state Sen. Jim Seward, R-Milford. The lunch, part of a pilot program through the Office of the Aging, will be served the fourth Wednesday of every month. (Ian Austin/
Senior Meal Site To Open At Milford Church

Senior Meal Site Due In Milford

MILFORD – The Milford United Methodist Church will host the inaugural Senior Meals Social, sponsored by the Office of the Aging, at 11:30 a.m. Wednesday, Jan.24.

“Seniors are often isolated, especially in the winter,” said Rev. Sylvia Barrett, pastor of the church. “We want to use this opportunity to speak with them, see if they’d like to have speakers or other activities.”

Althiser Pleads Guilty To Milford Church Arson

Althiser Pleads Guilty

To Milford Church Arson

Above, Gerald Althiser, 21, and his lawyer, David Taylor, listen as county Judge John F. Lambert reads the terms of Althiser’s guilty plea this morning. Althiser plead guilty to attempted arson, third degree, for the fire that destroyed the Milford United Methodist Church last March. At right, Rev. Sylvia Barrett, pastor of the First United Methodist Church, read a statement on behalf of the church, telling Althiser that although they forgave him and were praying for him, they hoped the court would sentence him to a facility where he could receive mental health treatment.  Lambert sentenced Althiser to five years probation, to be served at the Homer Folks Facility, a supervised institution for the developmentally disabled, where he will receive counseling. Should he attempt to leave the facility, he will be arrested and sent to state prison for up to seven years. A judgement of $1 million was also placed against him.  (Ian Austin/


Pastor Sylvia Barrett 2017 Citizen Of Year YEARBOOK PUBLISHED

Pastor Sylvia Barrett

2017 Citizen Of Year

Hometown Oneonta & The Freeman’s Journal announce the 2017 Citizen of the Year in this week’s editions: Pastor Sylvia Barrett, who is energetically leading her congregation into the future after the Milford United Methodist Church burned on March 12. Also this week’s newspapers, the Otsego County Yearbook, with one photo from every week of the just-ending year, is published. Available this afternoon at newsstands through Otsego County.
Police Identify Milford Fire Suspect

Springfield Man, 20,

Milford Fire Suspect

Gerald Althiser Jr.

SPRINGFIELD CENTER – State Police have arrested Gerald E. Althiser Jr., 20, of Springfield Center, under suspicion of starting the fire that destroyed the Milford United Methodist Church in March.

On Saturday, July 08,  State Police arrested Althiser for allegedly starting fires in two campers.  During the investigation, police allege that Althiser admitted to setting numerous fires, including the March 12 fire that destroyed the Milford United Methodist Church on State Route 28 in the Town of Milford.

Arrest Made In Milford Church Fire

Teen Arrested In

Milford Church Fire

The inside of the Milford United Methodist Church following the fire. (Ian Austin/

MILFORD – A Middlefield teen was arrested and charged with setting the fire that destroyed the Milford United Methodist Church in March.

According to District Attorney John Muehl, state police arrested a young man on Saturday, July 8, for allegedly setting fires to several storage units in that town. During the investigation, police allegedly discovered evidence linking him to the church fire, and he was arrested.

Muehl said the suspect’s name and charges would be forthcoming from state police.

The fire was originally believed to have been an accident due to faulty electrical wiring.

Fire At Milford United Methodist Church





Flames push out from under the front gable of the Milford United Methodist Church, which is on fire at this hour. The fire began in the rear, where the dining hall and church offices are located. (Jim Kevlin/

Fire Began In Dining Hall

At Rear, Spreads Throughout


MILFORD – Almost a dozen fire crews at this hour are battling a blaze at the Milford United Methodist Church at 89 Main St.

The crews, including Milford, Oneonta, Cooperstown, Mount Vision, Schenevus and several others appeared to have the blaze under control, but it was burning too hot to be extinguished.  It appeared likely the building will be a total loss.

Efforts are concentrating on the belltower at this hour (10 p.m.)

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21 Railroad Ave. Cooperstown, New York 13326 • (607) 547-6103