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Our History

Contents
 
1918: Our Centennial Celebration

The most significant change to our church building in the years leading up to our Centennial Celebration was the installation of a new pipe organ in 1917. Read More...

1818: Our Foundation and the Church Building

Our congregation first met on September 8, 1818, when a group of five men and eleven women gathered in a barn... Read More...

1965: Stained Glass Windows

In 1965, new windows were installed in the sanctuary, as well as the rest of the church. Read More...

 
1968: Remodeling for Our Sesquicentennial

During the 29-year pastorate of Rev. William J. Cartmell, our building expanded to better serve our community. Read More...

 
1990s: The Broadcast Era

Starting in the mid-1990s and continuing for about a decade, our Sunday worship services were broadcast on network television. Read More...

 
2004: Millennial Modernization

The new millennium brought many changes to the church building under our new pastor, Rev. Bev's guidance. Read More...

 
2018: Our Bicentennial Celebration

In 2018, our newly installed pastor, the Reverend Cara S. Milne, created a small group of dedicated workers to organize a gathering... Read More...

 
2020: COVID Shutdown

With only two years in Watkins Glen, Pastor Cara found herself at the helm of another turning point in our congregation's history; or rather, in all of history! A new strain of coronavirus ravaged the world's population as nothing had in the previous century. Read More...

Ongoing: Charitable Programs

As we continue to maintain, repair and refurbish our beautiful Romanesque building, of course, we are ever mindful of the fact that the true Church is the body of believers, and not just a piece of architecture. Our greatest investment, therefore, has always been in our spiritual and charitable programs.

 

The ordination of our own church member, the Rev. Gail W. Harkness in 1964, was therefore a particularly rewarding event. The 1970s brought a county-wide awakening of charitable activity under the newly-formed Schuyler County Council of Churches. Hospice Care and grief support groups were formed before these resources were available outside the church.

 

Begun in 1995, our Prayer Chain continues to this day as a semi-private email endeavor. Since 1997, our "Keeping in Touch" program keeps congregants connected with the youth and young adults who leave for college or military service, by mailing seasonal cards and care packages.

Mission trips have improved living conditions in Wilder, Tennessee and again locally after Hurricane Agnes devastated the town of Elmira during the 1970s. A prebytery mission trip to the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico helped in the construction of a new church building in February of 2001. Our congregants have participated in numerous missions in Haiti, and our church continues to financially support efforts there, as the Haitian people endeavor to stop erosion and improve living conditions in the once-prosperous country.

In 2002, the Presbyterian Women began recognizing "Women of Faith", each of whom represents the Christian dedication and skill we all strive to achieve. Over the years, four project-oriented circles have overseen Bake Sales, Muffin Sundays, Cookie Bees, White Elephant parties, and other exciting events to herald in each new season.

The annual Women's Fellowship Supper continues to be held each Summer, and Ice Cream Social follows every Autumn; these highly anticipated events offer food and fellowship, and even a bit of live entertainment!

Several spiritual renewal weekends have been held during the summers, primarily at Camp Whitman on Seneca Lake, which has been owned by the Presbytery of Geneva since 1954. Our first church family retreat was held in May of 2001 at Watson Homestead.

Watkins Glen Harvest Dinner

The Harvest Dinner is one of our largest community outreach events! In 2018, the long and hungry line of churchgoers was moved indoors, where eager attendees could sit comfortably in our sanctuary as they enjoyed the sound of Joe Orbin on the pipe organ while awaiting their meal.

In fact, the Harvest Dinner and Christmas Bazaar are so well attended, that some have admitted to driving several hours each way to join us!

 

Then one prescient year before the pandemic made it such a critical part of our annual calendar, our 2019 Blue Christmas service ("Christmas in a Minor Key") brought an engaging new perspective of prayer, contemplation, tradition and reflection, for those facing a difficult season. Our Christmas Families are selected from names given to us by local charities and law enforcement, and our congregation always gives generously to provide for the urgent needs and desires of these little ones and their parents.

Our Presbyterian Women's evening Advent Candlelighting Service has been increasingly well attended by women in our greater community since its introduction in December of 1996.

 

Christian education is as important as ever to our local church. Each Wednesday during Lent, the pastor conducts a topical Bible study, and our Soup & Study group meets in the Fall and Winter to examine books by renowned traditional or contemporary Christian authors.

The Children's Service is a welcome time of illustration during Sunday worship, and we love to see our youngest ushers collecting funds for 2 Cents-a-Meal.

Our children's program incorporates learning with drama and choir, culminating in fun and inspiring performances on our annual Children's Day worship service. Vacation Bible School combines Bible stories, crafts, science activities, music, games and snacks, to provide the children of our church and community with an amazing and delightful program each year.

Children's Christmas Program

 

Our scholarship program, established in 2000, still offers stipends to those college students who are active in the church. Seminary interns have enriched our church ministry. Bible Studies and retreats are offered throughout the year. As a part of the Presbytery of Geneva, we are pleased to offer various get-aways to Camp Whitman on Seneca Lake each year. Our deacons help us keep in touch with members and friends of our congregation through cards and care packages. And through Missions, we continue to provide prayerful support to a handful of well-deserving local, regional, and global ministries, as reported in our monthly newsletters.

As we are reminded each Sunday at the end of every worship service, we may have one pastor, but we are all ministers. "The end of worship is the beginning of service."

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Additional Resources

Much of this information was taken from "A Brief History: United Presbyterian Church of Watkins Glen, N.Y." by Abigail O'Daniels, dtd. October 20, 1968. (Get PDF Reader)

 

For additional information about the history of the Presbyterian Church in the United States, please refer to extensive resources available at "Presbyterian Historical Society: The National Archives of the PC(USA)."

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Pastors Through the Years
Sixth & Decatur (1868-Present)

2017 Rev. Cara S. Milne

2016 Rev. Cynthia A. Weaver *

2015 Rev. Nancy Meehan Yao *

1997 Rev. Beverly Karr-Lyon †

1996 Rev. Thomas C. Montgomery *

1987 Rev. W. David Ashby
1985 Rev. William R. Knox *
1969 Rev. Clark N. McKinney
1939 Rev. William J. Cartmell
1934 Rev. Clayton T. Griswold
1916 Rev. Arthur B. Herr, D.D.
1910 Rev. James Elmer Russell
1905 Rev. Selden L. Haynes
1893 Rev. Louis F. Ruf
1888 Rev. Bryce K. Douglas
1882 Rev. George D. Meigs
1877 Rev. Milton Waldo D.D.
1876 Rev. William Lowrie
1870 Rev. J.S. McNair

* interim pastor

pastor emeritus

 

Fifth & Decatur (1847-1868)

1860 Rev. Franklin S. Howe
1855 Rev. Benjamin Russell
1847 Rev. S.B. Shearer

 

The Savoy Site (1833-1847)

1843 Rev. Samuel Stryker
1838 Rev. Samuel Scott
1836 Rev. Royal West
1835 Rev. Egbert Roosa

 

The Diven Barn (1818-1833)

1832 Rev. Charles Goodrich
1831 Rev. David Harrower
1829 Rev. Richard Williams
1826 Rev. Jabez Chadwick
1826 Rev. Samuel White
1825 Rev. Henry Ford
1822 Rev. Joseph Crawford
1821 Rev. Lyman Barrett
1818 Rev. Samuel Parker
1818 Rev. David Higgins