Months of construction and anticipation both ended on Palm Sunday when the historic church building on East Main Street held its first official service April 17 as .
The congregation of the Northport Island Christian Church provided $250,000 in materials and labor to renovate the historic Port Jefferson Baptist Church. They’re not asking anything in return except for the chance to bring their bible message to anyone who wants to hear it in Port Jefferson.
If their first service on Palm Sunday is any indication, their message is accompanied by a lot of song. The building resounded with singing backed up by drums, guitars, and a French horn. The atmosphere was celebratory and full of the faith that brought this moment into being.
For years, a struggling congregation of five to ten people in Port Jefferson had prayed for a miracle that would save and renovate this historic landmark–and they got it. The dedication occurred on Thursday, April 14 attended by state sen. Ken LaValle R-Port Jefferson and the first full service was held on Palm Sunday, April 17. The congregation swelled from ten people to100.
The church was renamed the Island Christian Church and is linked with three other Island Christian Churches, the founding church is in Northport and the third church in Holbrook. The “Port Jefferson Campus” as it’s called, will be the primary responsibility of Pastor Pete Jansson, helped by Joseph Garofalo, the Outreach Pastor. Sunday church service will be at 10 a.m. backed up by a Sunday School caring for children, from infants through 5th grade.
Eleven pastors and as many deacons who work in the Island Christian Church system were present on Thursday as the new Pastor, Peter Janssen, knelt to be dedicated to his service in this church.
Pastor Lester Ayars, who founded the Northport Church over 40 years ago spoke of the decision to stop the trend toward “mega-churches” and get into the business of being available in small communities. His conviction: “People need to be known and supported where they worship.”
The church will be building “life groups,” small groups that meet in homes “where with Christ at the center, we interact with God’s truth, enjoy friendships, reach out to others and support one another,” said Ayars.
The new congregation is eager to show everyone all the work they have done to bring this building back to its historic roots while “adding a few modernizations along the way such as air conditioning, heating.”
Built 150 years ago, the church maintains its character with high ceiling, mullioned windows and great organ. The balcony is rebuilt and brand new stairs lead from the sanctuary down to the fellowship hall on the ground floor where the Sunday School and community gatherings are held.
Every possible effort has been made to stay true to the original building, including re-plastering some walls instead of using sheet rock. Paul Sandberg, who is presently pastor for foreign missions, worked 20 years in construction before becoming a pastor 20 years ago. Sandberg has been the go-to man for all construction problems with the church.
“There is nothing he can’t fix,” said Phil Anderson who has loved these past months working with Sandberg.
As if to make the point himself, Sandberg pointed out the large cross hanging on the sanctuary wall.
“The frame of that cross is made from pieces of the old sanctuary cross,” he said.
The frame for it is made from one of the original pews which was too decrepit to restore, and the interior bracing is made from a piece of white pine flooring after the termite eaten portion was stripped away.”
Yes, there is great pride in the work done. As it says in the church brochure, available if you visit, there is “New Life for an Old Church.”
Correction: An earlier version of this story stated that the church received $250 million in materials and labor to remodel the church. The correct amount is $250,000.