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Society seeks to save landmark Stone Arabia church

By Tim Blydenburgh, Observer Dispatch

St Johnsville - The campaign to preserve the Stone Arabia Reformed Church, which dates from colonial times, is growing more solid by the day.

The new Stone Arabia  Preservation Society is seeking recognition from the state Board of Regents, which would allow it to look for grants and tax-exempt status.  Doris Crangle, a group member from Palatine Bridge, said the purpose is to keep the church a community center and a place to store archives.

The distinctive stone church, located off  Route 5  east of St Johnsville, was built in 1770 by Palatine German settlers.  Stone for the church was taken from local quarries.  Among the church's features are balconies where slaves worshipped.

In early days, men sat on one side; women on the other.  That changed when church officials saw their flock donating less, so they allowed families to sit together.

Today, worshippers have dwindled.  

In January, what was left of the congregation disbanded--not enough members were left to support a minister, Crangle said.  The church was turned over to the Montgomery Classis of the Reformed Church, the governing body for Reformed churches in the area.

Crangle, a church member, said the new preservation society needs to move quickly to make its intent known.  "We can't stand still," she said.  "We do have time limits for filing (for incorporation.)"

The purpose of the society is to promote the history of the community and Montgomery County and to keep records for display and research, Crangle said.  It would also preserve the church--which is in good condition--the cemetery and the parsonage, which once was a religious academy.

Most importantly, it would be a spot for family reunions, memorials, celebrations, historical lecture series--even funerals and marriages, she said.

It's all 'people' things," she said.  "It's not just a place to put out a lot of old dishes and that sort of thing.  We want it used."

The society last night voted on a constitution, bylaws, officers and to send a charter to the Regents.  The society would like to reach agreements with the Classis for using the church but Crangle would not elaborate.

Local support looks good, she said.  The first meeting drew 30 people; the second attracted 50, she said.

"We hope to prove to them we mean business.  We've formed this society, we'll try to fund it and take care of the church.  We've proven we're serious."

 
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