College Point church rises from the ashes

The Rev. Linda Burlew Gold (at podium), pastor of the First Reformed Church of College Point, speaks during the rededication mass at the main sanctuary last weekend. Photo by Christina Santucci
By Nathan Duke

College Point’s First Reformed Church reopened last weekend with its first Sunday worship service in nearly a year and a half following a June 6, 2008, fire that engulfed its steeple and caused major damage to its main sanctuary.

A congregation of nearly 50 parishioners turned out Sunday morning for the service, at which the Rev. Linda Burlew Gold rededicated the church’s refurbished building.

“This morning is full of hope for the future,” she said in her sermon. “We rededicate this sanctuary for our congregation and our future. Let us not forget how we stood on the sidewalk and watched it burn, but let us not forget how our neighbors stood with us on the sidewalk.”

The church, at 118-01 14th Ave. in College Point, had been waiting for an inspection following months of reconstruction on the steeple and sanctuary that was completed in July. The city had placed a vacate order at the site shortly after the blaze as a result of water and smoke damage.

It was unclear how the fire at the church started.

But a city Department of Buildings inspector gave the church a favorable report in late October.

Burlew Gold said the reconstruction project went through numerous permits and licenses, frustrating its dedicated congregation.

“God never left this sanctuary,” she said. “He was here during the fire and during the construction as we prayed. We were burned by the fire but enflamed by the Holy Spirit.”

The church has not missed a single Sunday service since the fire and has held services at a number of sites, including the church’s lawn and for the past 17 months in its smaller, attached chapel. Its ministries, which include 12-step program meetings and a food pantry, have also not been interrupted.

Most of the damage to the church was covered by insurance, so the church paid less than $10,000 for its reconstruction costs, Burlew Gold said.

“We’re very excited and pleased with the results,” said Donald Moss, the church’s treasurer. “It took a long time because we had to fight a lot of red tape with all the approvals. But we’re finally back in. It looks like clear sailing from here on.”

The church dates back to 1871. Regular worship services began soon after and the church was dedicated Sept. 28, 1873. The families of some of its parishioners have been attending the church for four generations.

Reach reporter Nathan Duke by e-mail at nduke@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 156.

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