June 14, 2008
200 years and counting —
Dryden church to celebrate bicentennial
Joe McIntyre/staff photographer
Dressed in period garb from two centuries ago, Nancy Couch of Dryden stands on the front lawn of the First Presbyterian Church, in Dryden, which will be celebrating its 200th birthday this weekend.
DRYDEN — As a child, Robert Carpenter, 93, would help his father, Archie, deliver milk Sunday mornings by horse and buggy and then attend church at the First Presbyterian Church, which is celebrating its bicentennial Sunday.
“My dad was an elder in the church at the time. If we went anywhere, it was to church,” Carpenter said, noting weather would not deter them as milk had to be delivered anyway.
At that time there were only two churches in Dryden. The second church was Methodist and the two churches were neighbors.
The First Presbyterian Church had started more than 100 years earlier than Carpenter’s birth when a group of 13 dedicated people formed the church in February 1808 with nothing, not even a piece of land for the church.
They met in homes and barns of parishioners until a structure was started in 1820 and completed in 1823 on land donated by one of the founding parishioners, Abram Griswold. Other donations and land purchases followed.
The church also relied on parishioners to build the church with lumber they donated. Most of the sawed lumber came from Derick Sutfin’s sawmill, said Jeanine Scott, a current member of the church and co-chair of Sunday’s bicentennial celebration. One of the original members of the church, he ran the sawmill during the day for his own business and at night the church used it.
Much of the original church was destroyed in a fire in the winter of 1938, leaving the Sunday school room, where parishioners gathered until the church was rebuilt. Robert Carpenter said he and his father took the horses and sleighs down and pulled a lot of the pews out of the rubble. He said those pews are now in the balcony of the church.
Gabriel Carpenter, 28, is an active church member. He said it has been special for him because it is where he renewed his friendship with his wife, Penny Carpenter. They had gone to school together in Dryden but left for different colleges, he said. He had settled back in Dryden but was not dating and his family was joking about him expecting his wife to walk into the church. One Sunday the Rev. David Robinson, who has been pastor for 22 years, was away and Gabriel Carpenter was to preach. He had heard his girlfriend was back in town and invited her to come. “She snuck in late and sat in the balcony,” said Gabriel Carpenter. “We were married nine months later.” That was in April 2004.
The young elder said the church continues to support his family. He and his wife adopted two children from Ethiopia, a boy, now 19 months old and a girl, 9 months old.
“The church was incredibly supportive in that process,” Gabriel Carpenter said. He said the church raised money to support the orphanage and it continues to do so. And, members supported them other ways — offering to help care for the children, crying when there were court delays and rejoicing in the adoptions. “It’s good to know you have a group of people who love and support you so much.”
The church also supports the local community with the Kitchen Cupboard, a food pantry that served about 30 families a year when it started in 1979 and now serves about 5,000 families a year. Families in need can pick up three days supply of food. Gabriel Carpenter said other local churches support the Kitchen Cupboard, too.
It originally started in a small closet, but now the former manse’s garage houses the program.
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