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Albion church keeps up ministry despite building uncertainty

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 3 October 2013 at 12:00 am

Photos by Tom Rivers – Kim Pritt, a fifth-generation member of the First United Methodist Church in Albion, volunteers with the hospitality ministry that provides coffee and refreshments for people waiting to take their driver’s test at the corner of East State and Platt streets.

ALBION –  The church that voted in August to abandon its historic building isn’t giving up on serving the community.

The First United Methodist Church in Albion is serving spaghetti dinners, offering coffee and conversation at a hospitality table, and planning other events.

“We’re still here,” said Kim Pritt, a fifth-generation member of the church at the corner of East State and Platt streets. “We’re alive and well.”

The church doesn’t have a timetable for when it will leave its building. That is in the hands of the conference. The church voted Aug. 21 to turn over the building, which needs a $1 million roof and building repair.

The Upper New York Annual Conference, which has its main office in Syracuse, is weighing the offer. Church buildings have been abandoned before, but in those cases the congregation typically disbanded. The Albion congregation is staying together and looking for alternatives for a meeting place, perhaps at another local church, Pritt said.

In the meantime, the church doors are open to the community. Last Wednesday the church held its monthly spaghetti dinner and served 73 meals to the community, an all-time high. The church will have a rummage sale this Friday and Saturday and it is planning its annual Country Fair, set for Oct. 19. That includes lunch, crafts, baked goods and other activities.

Kim Pritt has the coffee ready as part of the hospitality ministry at the United Methodist Church in Albion. The church is hosting a rummage sale on Friday and Saturday.

About 10 years ago, church volunteers started a hospitality ministry on Mondays and Wednesdays for people taking the state driver’s test. The test starts in front of the church on East State Street. Church members noticed people often stood outside by the church waiting to take their test or for a friend or child to finish the exam.

The church started to serve coffee and refreshments to those waiting, and to let them come inside the building. Sometimes the testers want to use the bathroom. Sometimes they need a walk in the church to calm their nerves.

Pritt likes to volunteer for the hospitality table. She has met people from throughout the state. Many come from outside Orleans County to take their driver’s test, she said.

“Every single time I have at least one wonderful conversation with someone,” she said. “Sometimes I get lucky and get two or three great conversations.”

She and other church volunteers often give people tours of the historic church. The volunteers also share local history and point people to other local attractions.

When the church building is closed, Pritt said the United Methodists want to keep up the hospitality ministry, but they said it may need to be run from a church across the street, the Free Methodist Church. United Methodists want to help provide the manpower to keep the ministry going, she said.

“It’s a blessing,” she said about the hospitality table. “All of us who volunteer love to meet people.”