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Historic Batavia church asks for support in restoration project

"Save the clock tower! Save the clock tower!"

Some of our readers will remember that line from the 1985 movie, "Back to the Future." Well, Batavia's St. James Episcopal Church has its own version of that plea:

"Save the bell tower! Save the bell tower!"

The tower, pictured above, was built in 1908 and has been showing signs of wear in the last 10 years.

"Especially in the last couple of years, we've noticed deterioration," said Cathy Judkins, a member of St. James who is also on the committee for the tower's restoration.

St. James Vicar Steven Metcalfe said there has been a "real push" since 2008 toward preserving the tower, which is very important to the religious heritage of St. James Church -- not only because of its historical significance (St. James is one of the oldest religious communities in Batavia and makes use of the old, awe-inspiring cathedral architecture -- see the April 12 article on the stained-glass tour), but also because of what it means to St. James as a family in faith.

"We have a very vibrant, caring and faithful worship community," Metcalfe said. "We want our building to reflect that."

To that end, he also offered this defense of the importance of restoration: "It's like what they say about a house turning into a home: it becomes more than just a building when it's been lived in."

The church and the various fundraising committees dedicated to preserving and restoring the tower have worked hard over the last couple of years. They have hired architects and consulted stonemasons; they have organized fundraising events -- including concerts, a calendar sale during the Christmas season, and fish fries every Friday during Lent; they are starting a Captial Campaign next month, and have applied for four grants -- three from private organizations and one from New York State.

According to Judkins, they have divided the overall project into six phases in order to make it more "financially manageable."

"The first phase is the most expensive," she said. "We're trying to raise about $500,000. We hope to have at least a fail-safe project by fall, something that can hold us together until we've reached our goal."

The church will accept monetary donations from anyone who would like to help out. People can also assist their efforts by supporting and/or attending their fundraisers, which are well-publicized.

Upcoming fundraisers include the second annual "Pedal to Save the Church", which starts at the church -- at 405 E. Main St. in Batavia -- around 8 a.m. (check-in) on Sept. 11, and a theatrical performance of "Tuesdays with Morrie," starring Batavia Players' Norm Argulsky as Morrie, on Oct. 16-17. All are invited to attend.

Additionally, Metcalfe invited anyone interested in lending a hand to come to the congregation and "get to know us." 

Marcia Gann, another member of St. James and the preservation committee, said that this project has garnered "great community support." She gratefully cited the support of the churches involved in the stained-glass tour, Adam Miller's Toys & Bicycles, and Present Tense Books as examples.

For more information on the bell tower restoration project and related fundraisers, please call the church at 343-6802 or visit their website.

Gary Spencer
Gary Spencer's picture
Online
Joined: Feb 18 2009
""The first phase is the most expensive," she said. "We're trying to try to raise about $500,000." 500 grand is a lot of money, any idea what the total cost estimate is?
Amy Weidner
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Joined: Jul 14 2009
$500,000 really is a lot of money. I wonder if the deterioration is structural, or if it's simply cosmetic. One would think that, as Christians, St. James could find a better use for the money. Perhaps something like what the Care-A-Van does, as far as helping the community. If you spent $500,000 on helping the needy in our city, you could make quite an impact. Isn't that what's important? It just seems like a lot of money to make an old building look new again. Especially if it's still standing firmly.
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