“It was a lot of fun, not exactly the event we had planned,” said Ed Dunscombe, of a centennial celebration on Oct.4 for Holy Nativity Lutheran Church in Endicott.
Dunscombe, who is the vice-president of the church council, said they’d been working on the event for a couple of years. The pandemic changed it from an in-person to a virtual gathering and allowed people to attend from distant places.
All of Holy Nativity’s living former ministers were there. Bishop John Stanley Macholz of the Upstate New York Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America presided at the service.
“100 years of mission work, possibly 1,000 weddings and baptisms, worship and all the people is significant,” said current pastor, Rev. Janet Abel.
“Rev. Kenneth Wood preached a message of celebrating 100 years based on Jesus’ message that if you have visited, fed and clothed the least of these, you’ve ministered to Jesus,” she said.
In the early days, members met in a building at the En-Joie Golf Club or members’ homes. That’s before the church was built on Main Street.
Dunscombe, who’s been a member at Holy Nativity for 35 years, is fond of the traditional Lutheran Liturgy. For him, the highlight of the celebration was a recording of the old choir.
“It was wonderful,” said 30-year-member Roger Neel. “Great memories and history of the church were shared. It was emotional reminiscing about past projects undertaken to help the church and the community.”
Over the years, Holy Nativity church members have supported CHOW as well as Seafarer’s, which assists people who work on cargo ships. They’ve also helped churches in Africa. And they’ve hosted weekly Lenten luncheons and gatherings for the Broome County Council of Churches.
“The congregation of Holy Nativity is a wonderful group of people, friendly, kind and loving, and it’s been a true pleasure to be their minister,” Abel said. “The closing of the church has been coming for some time.”
“We have made many friends in the church,” Neel said, “We have been blessed with wonderful pastors over the years. Each brought special gifts in worship, leadership and ministry.”
“It is also sad knowing that the church will close at the end of December,” Neel added.
There used to be two services each Sunday, where seating was at a premium. Times have changed, Dunscombe said, as the area’s population has decreased and fewer people are attending.
“We’re down to about 15 people,” he said, “that includes the minister and the organist and the assistant minister and the ushers. it’s a radical change.”
“I always feel when I leave on a Sunday that I’ve had a nice long refreshing drink from the spiritual well,” Dunscombe said. “It restores me so I can meet challenges again.”
He expects though people will join other congregations, they’ll stay in touch with the “family” formed over the years at the church.
As Dunscombe looked at a picture of a “poorly lit” stained glass window over the altar, he shared a thought.
“Funny, it hit me that our church started in the shadow of the 1918 epidemic and ends in the Time of Covid,” he said.
The final chapter of the faith story of Holy Nativity Church is soon approaching, as the church will close its doors in December. But the book remains open and the page will turn to something different in the new year.
Members have approved the donation of the church building and house, a new home for Ignite Church.
“It’s nice to know that we’ve planted a seed for a new congregation to take up the work in the community.” Dunscombe said.