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Blackwood Gospel Quartet toplines church benefit

by jmaloni
Mon, May 16th 2011 02:50 pm

First Presbyterian Church of Lewiston hosts the Grammy-nominated Blackwood Gospel Quartet at 7 p.m. on Saturday, May 21, in the Old Stone Church, 505 Cayuga St. The event begins with a pulled pork dinner and basket raffle from 5 until 6:30 p.m. in the social hall.

Tickets are $10 and may be purchased at the church, and at Ashker's and Mangia Café & Bakery, both on Center Street.

"The reason we are doing this fundraiser is to raise funds for the Old Stone Church," said event chairwoman Louise Wasko. "As you can imagine, a building of its age needs repairs. We did about $8,000 to it last year (painting, replacing parts of the cupola eaves, etc.) This year we need to address the chimney. It either needs to be replaced (crumbling from the inside out) or a new furnace put in that is a direct vent. We are looking at $4,000 or a little more. 

"We are hoping the community will help us with this venture since we are one of the oldest building(s) still left in Lewiston."

First Presbyterian Church was originally organized in January 1817, and was truly an act of courage and faith. Not until sometime in 1815 had enough of those who had fled from the destruction of the village in December 1813 returned to make Lewiston once more worthy of the name "village."  Of those who returned, there were some who opposed formation of a church. 

Nevertheless, on Jan. 20, 1817, five people, meeting in the home of Jonas Sealy, made public confession of their faith in Christ and adopted the confession of faith as held by the Presbyterian Church. By April 6 of the same year, when the first communion was celebrated, the congregation had grown to 11 and each of the founding couples had a baby to be baptized. Thus began the first church in the Village of Lewiston. 

In 1826 the building committee of David Smith, Benjamin Barton and Amos Tryon was established. Four years later, in 1830, the cornerstone was purchased for $1.50 plus transportation from a quarry in Queenstown, Ontario, and was laid later that same year.

The walls that rose slowly were also of stone - two-and-a-half-feet thick. Building was a slow and difficult matter. Even after the walls were up, significant time lapsed before a roof was achieved, and the congregation met under the open sky. Yet, there were many who volunteered both work and materials.

Eight years after the building was started, the first funeral was held in the still incomplete church. The family and friends of Robert Nichols sat on boards laid on blocks at his funeral service.  

Progress was made and, in 1835, the first annual meeting was held in the church instead of the schoolhouse - and there were new pews to sit on. These were the box pews so common in New England churches, sold at auctions to pay the minister. Later they rented for $100, $50, $25 and $15, still for the minister's salary.  

The building was heated by then. Two stoves were bought in Lockport for $22, but the 321 feet of stovepipe needed to connect them, and the transportation to get it all to Lewiston brought the cost to $90. With so well-equipped a building, the congregation contracted it to other denominations to use part of the time.

For more information on the fundraiser, call 754-4945. To learn more about the Blackwood Gospel Quartet, visit www.BGQMusic.com.

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