The New Hurley Reformed Church in the Town of Plattekill is five years older than the nation it resides in. Members of the congregation gathered on Sept. 12 to celebrate the church’s 250th anniversary.
During the celebration, members of the congregation recognized Leroy Fries, their oldest member. He was born to the congregation and was baptized, married and attended Sunday School at the church. In addition, his children were baptized there and attended church there. In total, Fries has been part of the congregation for 74 years.
“It’s just a great place, that’s all,” he said. “When you come, you know what kind of people are gonna be here.”
The church bell was rung 250 times in honor of the anniversary. Afterwards, Katrina Stoker took a photograph of the ceremony to preserve its history for future generations. Attendees were forced to wear masks and socially distance, creating a memorable photo opportunity.
To further celebrate the momentous occasion, the New Hurley Reformed Church 250th Anniversary Committee will frame a quilt that was made in celebration of the church’s 100th anniversary, which will be showcased on a church wall. A lantern from the original church has been placed in a glass case.
The church was organized on Nov. 8, 1770 after a flood from the nearby Wallkill River washed out a bridge that Dutch settlers in the area had used to reach services at another nearby Dutch Reformed Church. After several years, the church was granted permission to establish a new church on the condition it was located away from the river. The site was purchased several years afterwards and a primitive church was built on the spot, with a parsonage and cemetery added later. For its first half-century, it shared a pastor with another Reformed church in New Paltz.
The original church was replaced by the current building in 1835. In the early 20th Century, the current stained glass windows were installed; during the 1920s the aging building was renovated after a period in which church membership had declined to the point that a vote had to be taken to save it from closure.
A second renovation, in the middle of the century, focused on the interior; around the same time a new church hall was built on the property to replace one that had been located a short distance away. Further work was done on the interior in the 1970s. Most significantly, the organ and choir were finally moved from the front of the sanctuary to the rear upstairs, bringing them in line with Reformed Church tradition. The pews were removed and repainted, the floor was refinished and a new ceiling was installed. This church was added to the U.S. National Register of Historic Places on Nov. 10, 1982.
Though the official anniversary is Nov. 8, the church decided to celebrate while Ken Kobza was still pastor. Sept. 12 was his last sermon before moving to Colorado.
“This has been my whole life calling,” he said. “This has been my existence for 34 years. My kids grew up here and were baptized here. This has been one of the most amazing things I’ve been able to do in my life. The people of course are extremely special and I’ll keep memories of them for the rest of my life.”