Westernville Presbyterian celebrates bicentennial

Published May 26, 2018 at 4:10pm

WESTERNVILLE — The Westernville Presbyterian Church will celebrate the 200th anniversary of its founding on June 10, at 2 p.m. at the church at 7697 Stokes-Westernville Road.

The event includes a rededication ceremony and opening of a new addition, with special music and a reception to follow.

In 1810, the first settlers to the town sought subscribers to raise funds to build a union church to be shared by Presbyterians, Baptists and Methodists. Eight-seven people pledged funds towards this undertaking. Construction began in 1817 and the church was formally dedicated on January 15, 1818.

The church experienced difficulty paying off the construction debt so in 1831 local merchant George Brayton satisfied the remainder of the obligation and deeded the church to the Presbyterians who thereafter used the church exclusively.

In 1898, a major addition – the chapel – was added to the east side of the building. In 2018, work was completed on an addition to the west side which added a pastor’s study and meeting space. The project incorporated handicapped accessibility throughout the building. A grant provided by the Rome Community Foundation enabled installation of a lift allowing access to the basement dining room.

Twenty-seven pastors ministered to the congregation over the years. Notables were George Washington Gale who later became a founder of the renowned Oneida Institute in Whitesboro, and, after moving to Illinois, founded Knox College. Gale was a close friend of the famed evangelist Rev. Charles Grandison Finney who preached in the church and town in the early phase of the Second Great Awakening of religious revivalism that swept across central New York in the 1820’s and 1830’s.

Other notable pastors were Rev. W.B. Parmalee who held the pulpit at intervals between 1858 and 1902; Rev. William A. Griffith, father of the late Emlyn Griffith of Rome, and Rev. Chester P. Lippy, the longest serving minister from 1965 to 2003. Rev. Lippy is now pastor emeritus. Rev. Sarah Schmidt-Lee, the church’s first female pastor, succeeded Rev. Lippy.

The current pastor is Rev. Jeffrey Courter.

The public is invited to the rededication ceremony and reception. RSVP’s would be appreciated at 315-827-4678 or westernvillechurch@gmail.com.

For more information, contact Rev. Courter at 315-827-4678 or Steve Smits, Clerk of Session, at 315-281-0490.