Utica, N.Y. - First Presbyterian Church of Utica Pastor Rev. Jeanne Kumbalek says it was a tough decision to put the historic church up for sale, but it is a proactive move to keep the church afloat, in another location.
The church property is listed on the Pavia Realty Services website for $759,000.
Rev. Kumbalek spoke with News Channel 2 after Sunday morning's worship service and says the service she had just led was a very emotional one, "Today was the first day a lot of people saw the 'For Sale' sign and that’s a very sad thing for us. It is a grieving process."
Rev. Kumbalek says it was the congregation that voted to sell the church, not the church's board, which is called a 'session', "The congregation had to vote and they voted in favor of this, and I’m so proud of them."
The church structure at 1601 Genesee Street was built in 1922, but the church itself dates back to 1794 in Utica, or rather the Village of Fort Schuyler as Utica was known at the time.
The church was in a number of locations in Utica before the current church was built at 1601 Genesee Street in 1922.
Rev. Kumbalek says the decision to sell the building was made in large part because you just can't keep paying the bills when not enough money is coming in from the congregation, "That’s a large part of it, the financial dollars, the membership has declined through the years. We are a typical mainline church in that sense."
As far as how long the church could stay afloat, no word on that, the talk is all about being positive and looking toward good things happening in the future.
Rev. Kumbalek says the future of the church is in God's hands. She says she is hoping a buyer will come forward and the church of between 60 and 70 members will move into a new location where it will rent space and continue its mission of helping others, "We have a very strong ministry and mission in the community."
As far as a possible new site, Rev. Kumbalek says there are some possibly sites that have been identified but it's too early in this process to even bring them up for discussion, "We are looking to nest in another church, and nesting is the term that used when we’re renting space and sharing facilities. Most likely it'll be another church but there are other choices for buildings. We’re not decided. But we know we will not build, we will not buy, that does not seem to be the wisest decision for this congregation at this point."
Rev. Kumbalek says the church will continue to hold its Sunday Worship Service as well as its Circle of Joy Worship Service, a monthly service for people with disabilities. It will also continue its Seeds of Hope Food Pantry and Clothes Closet to help those in need and continue to make meals once a month for Hope House and also continue its Universal Pre-K and First Nursery School programs. She says the plan is to bring all of these ministries as well as its Thanksgiving Dinner meal service which provides meals to about 1,000 people each year, with the church to its next physical location, "The legacy of this church is amazing. The love that you feel when you walk into the space is amazing."
The Seeds of Hope Food Pantry is open to the public every Tuesday and Thursday from 9:30 A.M. to 11:30 A.M..
The Clothes Closet at the church is open on Thursday mornings from 9:00 A.M. to 11:00 A.M..
If you would like to send a monetary donation to the church you can do so by mail at 1601 Genesee St., Utica NY, 13501.