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Historic Palatine Bridge church to open for tour

Event to showcase sacred sites

Monday, May 13, 2013
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Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church, Palatine Bridge. Photo provided
Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church, Palatine Bridge. Photo provided

— Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church was built by farmers on a plot of land just north of Palatine Bridge back when those farmers were still British subjects.

“The church has seen a lot of things,” said Rev. Zach Labagh, whose been catching up on the building’s long history in his few recent years as pastor.

On Saturday, anyone so inclined will have a chance to feel the weight of that history on a tour through the church as part of New York State Landmarks Conservancy’s annual Sacred Sites Open House event.

This year more than 140 churches in the state will open their doors to visitors as part of the event. Most are nearer New York City, but a few Capital Region churches are participating: one in Albany, another in Oak Hill and Trinity Lutheran in Palatine Bridge.

Trinity Lutheran was too far north to see action in the Revolutionary War, Labagh said, but it still bears traces from the conflict.

“There aren’t any bullets in the walls,” he said, “but we do have Revolutionary War casualties buried in the churchyard.”

People worshiped under the gabled roof generation after generation, through centuries of harvests, a handful of wars and the rise and fall of local industry. Then there’s the more recent history.

“One of our members just told me that she remembers the day Route 10 was paved,” Labagh said. “She watched the work from the church. Before that it was just dirt. There were more horses than cars.”

Of course, the building was remodeled and expanded several times over its long life. Approximately a century ago a great pipe organ was installed and still works today. Now the structure is covered in white siding from steeple to foundation for a classic church look.

All those years and the simple wood construction lend the church what Labagh termed a peaceful air of solemnity and general calm. It’s a solid place — as solid as the generations of farmers who were born, worked and died within a few miles of the place.

“It’s a powerful place to be,” he said.

Today though, only about 15 people visit the church every Sunday. Labagh described the congregation as elderly and very traditional. “Hard-working people,” he said.

Labagh also preaches at St. John’s and St. Mark’s in Canajoharie. He likes the arrangement, but wished more people could see the old church. A few months ago he entered Trinity Lutheran in the Sacred Sites Open House event.

According to The New York State Landmarks Conservancy’s website, the event is meant to “inspire residents to be tourists in their own town, introducing nonmembers to the history, art and architecture embodied in sacred places.”

The mission statement lines up with Labagh’s modest intent. Getting members, he said, or boosting attendance has nothing to do with hosting the tour.

“It’s about being open,” he said, “providing people with access to the peace in that church.”

Trinity is located a few miles north of Palatine Bridge on Route 10 and will be open from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday.

Also in the Capital Region, Sweet Pilgrim Missionary Baptist Church on Ten Broeck Street, Albany, and Oak Hill United Methodist Church on Route 81 in Oak Hill will be open Saturday.

For more information on the event visit www.nylandmarks.org.

 
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