By Connor Adams Sheets
On the evening of June 6, 2008, a fire engulfed the steeple of the First Reformed Church of College Point, causing major damage and closing the main sanctuary.
Pastor Linda Gold said she is hopeful that now, after months of reconstruction and waiting, the congregation’s Sunday services will soon be able to return to the expansive space following a favorable report by a city Department of Buildings inspector who examined the building last Thursday.
The church had been waiting for the inspection since reconstruction work on the steeple and sanctuary was completed in July.
A vacate order the department placed on the sanctuary, shortly after the fire as a result mainly of water and smoke damage, will be removed soon, Gold said.
“They haven’t lifted the order yet, but we’re just waiting for the permits to close, the paperwork to be done,” she said. “We don’t know how just long that’s going to take, but it’s like a light at the end of the tunnel, which we haven’t had much of the last several months …. We were at a point a month ago when we were frustrated and we didn’t know when it was going to end.”
Gold said if she hears from the department by Friday, the church’s Sunday services, which have been held in the smaller, attached chapel since the fire, will return to the sanctuary Nov. 22. If not, they will return to the space Jan. 3.
The fire, although it caused major damage to much of the church, has not shaken Gold or her parishioners.
Gene Barrett, a church elder who has attended the church since he was 6, said the fire caused some minor inconveniences and that some members were impatient about the slow pace of the reopening process, but the net affect on the congregation has been positive.
“When it first happened, I thought it was going to be a real imposition on us, but it hasn’t. It brought the congregation together to go through this,” he said. “I miss it, but I don’t think it has had a bad impact. And the service hasn’t changed at all, not even a little bit.”
The church has not missed a single Sunday service since the fire and its ministries, which include 12-step program meetings and a food pantry, have not been interrupted, Gold said.
Most of the damage was covered by insurance, she said, so the church will pay less than $10,000 on reconstruction costs. A “fire fund,” which accepts donations from community members and businesses, has been established to pay for the church’s share of the work.
The congregation dates back to 1871. Regular worship services began soon after, and the church was dedicated Sept. 28, 1873. The families of some of its approximately 55 active parishioners have been attending the church for four generations.
Those wishing to donate to the church’s fire fund can send checks to 118-17 14th Ave., College Point, NY 11356. Checks should be made out to the First Reformed Church of College Point, with “fire fund” written on the memo line.
Reach reporter Connor Adams Sheets by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 138.