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A memory rerun
April 15, 2011 - Pat Beck
I wrote this in 2008. As I drive by each day, I am watching it disappear but the memories will not, for me.
The First Baptist Church on South Main Street in Gloversville has to come down.
It's a condemned building.
The structure has deteriorated to the depths of being a safety issue. The holes in the roof are home to pigeons and bats. The front cracked steps and sidewalk are no longer an entranceway to worship, but are accented with dog feces.
It was not always like this. I choose to remember the church's beauty and the roles it played in my life.
My first entrance into this church was undoubtedly in my mother's arms in the spring of 1949. She had become a member since her marriage to my father sometime in the late 1930s.
I may not be able to recall my very first memory of the First Baptist Church, but in my mind's eye, I will always see the beauty of what for decades was my church: the deep, rich stained- glass windows, the dark, wooden pews, and the sound of a pipe organ that had nearly 3,000 pipes that seemed to go higher than my eyes could reach. Intertwined with my memories of the pipe organ are Olive Hallenbeck's (Mrs. Hallenbeck, to me) fingers, which graced the keys providing all of the beautiful music that filled the sanctuary. She also holds the spot of my very first musical director in my formative years in "cherub choir" and moving to a place in the Junior Choir.
March 30, 1962, on Maundy Thursday, I was baptized. That was the tradition at the time. A young person would attend Saturday morning classes at the age of 13 and be baptized on Thursday during Easter and receive Communion for the first time. And I can still remember walking into the filled baptismal (yes, I was dunked) with a trust that the more than 6-foot-tall Rev. Kurt Klingbeil would not let me drown.
There was an active youth group. We didn't hang out in school, but within the walls of the First Baptist Church, we accepted each other and formed a good relationship. The names of Jim Dunn, Bill Hollenbeck, Mark Schoonmaker, Gail Zayciek and Donna Mizrahi flash through my mind.
The church was monstrous to me in size: a wing of Sunday school rooms where the nursery was located and where you grew up first going through a small-size door, just the perfect height for a child; the massive, wide hallway that sloped downward and led you from the sanctuary to the portion of the church where there were large meeting and gathering rooms and ended up at the gym. Yes, the gym with a stage at the end. It hosted basketball games, large dinners, games and wedding receptions.
I recall November 1965, when the church was the scene of both happiness and sadness. I was anticipating being in my first wedding. My big sister, Cathy, was getting married, and the reception was to be held at the church following the ceremony. The wedding was held with the Rev. Klingbeil doing the honors at this happy event. The church that week was a venue for joy and sadness for our family as our minister was again with the family as he officiated at the funeral of our Aunt Flora, who died way too young.
On March 30, 1968, I walked down the aisle, on my father's arm, where the Rev. George Hawthorne performed a marriage, which has lasted more than 40 years.
The Gloversville First Baptist Church once was home to a large congregation. It was alive and had a very strong heartbeat.
I am sure there are others who have memories that go farther back and may be more vivid than mine, but these images and memories I have still visit my dreams today
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