The congregation of Saint Stephen's United Methodist Church in the Bronx gathered Sunday to celebrate the restoration of the 112-year-old place of worship. NY1's Erica Ferrari filed the following report.
Since 1898, churchgoers have been singing inside the walls of St. Stephen's United Methodist Church on 228th Street in the Bronx. On Sunday, its members had even more reason to sing as they celebrated the restoration and rededication of the building.
"When a building is restored, people are restored, and that permeates throughout the whole community," a member of the church said.
Members say their church was in desperate need of a facelift. Photos from before the restoration show the decaying shingles falling off the building. Now, thanks to more than $400,000 in donations from members of St. Stephen's and the surrounding community, two sides of the church have been restored to the original architectural design.
Nathaniel Dixon, pastor of the church, said that funding came from The City Society, Park Avenue Trust Fund, Kiwanis Club, and many people in the community.
The project took two years to plan and about four months of labor, but it is still only halfway done. Two sides of the church facing other buildings still need to be completed. Church members say they have faith that in time the construction will get done.
"Pray to God, because it was God who helped us do this much," said church member Urban Ellis.
"We're not done yet but we're getting there," said Betty Coalmon, a church member.
Because the church is so old, the blueprints could not be found to hand over to the architect working on the project, so pastor Dixon decided to do a little research.
"We went to the Avery Library at Columbia, and they have a department for old drawings, and we researched and looked up this building, found Alexander Welch's original architectural drawings," he said.
As a result of the research and construction, St. Stephen's now looks almost exactly the same as it did more than a century ago. Church members say that they are proud to be a part of this piece of history.