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Aug 10, 2015 1:29 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Parishioners Are Raising Money To Repair Hampton Bays Church

Hampton Bays Methodist Church is raising money to repair the steeple. AMANDA BERNOCCO
Aug 10, 2015 2:00 PM

Heat and humidity typically greet parishioners as they enter the Hampton Bays United Methodist Church for Sunday services in the summer, as air conditioning has never been offered at the 108-year-old house of worship.The beige paint lining the interior walls is now peeling in several places, while sections of stained glass windows are permanently popped from their frames, separating from the supportive lead strips that are supposed to keep them in place.

But perhaps the most pressing issue, one that has been problematic since Hurricane Sandy made landfall in October 2012, has been the leaky steeple roof that causes rainwater to drip down and continually damage the church ceiling below.

“All churches need upkeep, but our church needs a lot of work because it’s so old,” said Connie Schneider, a church trustee whose family has been attending the house of worship for generations. “There’s a lot of really old things in our church, so it’s all upkeep.”

While their to-do and wish lists are long, church officials agree that patching the steeple roof, by replacing some of the damaged cedar shingles with new ones, would be the best starting point, because the steeple is the first thing that people see when they drive past the West Montauk Highway church. That repair is expected to cost between $8,000 and $10,000 to complete, according to Lillian Hertel, a pastor who is now in her third summer at the church.

The other repairs, as well as the eventual installation of air conditioning, are interior renovations that they hope to tackle once their signature steeple is fixed.

“The only thing we’re doing right now is fixing the steeple … it’s an eyesore,” Ms. Hertel said.

And church officials, who previously saved about $3,000 for the much-needed repairs and upgrades—most of which comes from insurance—have recently decided to kick their fundraising efforts into high gear.

They have scheduled a fundraiser for Sunday, August 23, from noon until 4 p.m., at the Edgewater Restaurant on Montauk Highway in Hampton Bays. Tickets cost $35 for adults and $10 for children, and includes a buffet lunch and appetizers. Both a Chinese auction and a 50/50 raffle will be held, and parishioners will be bringing homemade desserts to share with attendees.

Those interested in attending must reserve tickets by this Sunday, August 16, by calling (631) 728-1660.

All proceeds from the event, which is expected to raise between $800 and $2,000, will go toward the church’s renovation fund.

The fundraiser has the support of the Hampton Bays Beautification Association, whose members recently tried assisting church officials in securing a historical grant to help pay for the damages. Those efforts came up short as the church is not a historic landmark, explained Susan von Freddi, president of the association.

Church officials are not interested in securing a historical designation for their house of worship, Ms. Schneider said, because such a label would place restrictions if they were ever to renovate the structure’s exterior.

Leaders of the church, which sits on 8.5 acres that stretch from Montauk Highway north all the way to Sunrise Highway, are also considering selling off as many as four acres of their land and using those sale proceeds to help finance other renovations.

Those upgrades would include completing repairs to the Anderson Warner building, which houses the church’s kitchen and offices, and the parsonage. Both of those buildings, which were constructed in the 1970s, need new floors, bathrooms and possibly a new roof, according to Ms. Schneider.

The church property is still being appraised by James McLauchlen Sr., of James R. McLauchlen Real Estate in Southampton. When reached this week, Mr. McLauchlen said he does not know exactly how long that process will take as there is still a “fair amount of work that needs to be done.”

Ms. Schneider explained that church officials completed an assessment of the best uses for their land and decided that some sort of light business, such as a nursery school, or possibly new homes would be the best use of their excess property. The land that could be put up for sale, which starts behind the church parsonage and extends to Sunrise Highway, has already been subdivided into three separate parcels, she said.

None of the properties is up for sale yet, according to Ms. Schneider.

According to Mr. McLauchlen, those properties fall within a residential zone and, therefore, no variances would be required of the new owners if they want to eventually build new homes or open a business. The land will be returned to the tax rolls once it changes hands, he added; religious institutions, such as churches, are exempt from property taxes.

Ms. Schneider noted that any leftover money from the future land sales will be earmarked for future maintenance and repairs. Once the steeple roof is fixed, officials intend to create a committee with either six to eight church members who will be responsible for deciding which renovations need to be a priority.

The committee will work to make the church more modern for the younger parishioners, Ms. Hertel explained, but without altering the look of the church too much.

Though other repairs take priority, Ms. Hertel said she would like to eventually create a center aisle by having the benches split into three sections. She also hopes that, one day, committee members will decide to transform the rear of the church, where a long table and chairs now sit, into a parlor.

“It just needs a lot of love,” Jeff Catena, a music director at the church, said of the house of worship.

Nanette Catena, Mr. Catena’s wife, who is also a music director at the church, noted that she and others are looking forward to the completion of the much-needed repairs.

“We’re taking on a very, very big project here,” she added. “It’s been part of the community for so long, I don’t want to just see it fall apart.”

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