Church looks beyond congregation for help
The United Methodist Church of Bay Shore on Montauk Highway. AT RIGHT: The peeling paint inside the church’s sanctuary.


Church looks beyond congregation for help


BAY SHORE—After two centuries of service, the United Methodist Church on Montauk Highway continues to play a vital role in the community by caring for a diverse population in working-class neighborhoods. Some of its important efforts include a Bay Shore day care and preschool, a community thrift shop open Wednesdays and Sundays, numerous group meetings for Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous, and a weekly soup kitchen that serves hot meals to anyone in need. But now the church is turning to the Bay Shore community for help, as the building is in dire need of exterior and interior restoration. 

David Timmoney, president of the church’s board of trustees, said a new roof was installed in 2001, but like any house, “the church starts to weather,” especially from storms like Hurricane Sandy in 2012 and Winter Storm Grayson last month. 

Timmoney also explained that membership decreased during the Great Recession. “Many people lost their houses and had to move off Long Island,” he said. “Others had to tighten up their wallets.”

Things started to look up, though, when Rev. Wendy Modeste was named church pastor in 2014. But the church does more than provide religious services. There are four classrooms providing day care to 32 children.

“It’s not a religious organization,” Timmoney said. “It’s affordable day care.”

The United Methodist Church, Bay Shore’s oldest church, was formed in 1810 when the area was called Penataquit. Services back then were held in the home of John Doxee and led by “circuit preachers,” who would travel by horseback to visit various congregations. Nine trustees signed the incorporation papers of the Methodist Episcopal Church of Penataquit on Feb. 13, 1860. They include some of Bay Shore’s oldest names: Nathaniel Clock, Seth Clock, Alanson Seaman, Selah Wicks, Charles Hubbard, Benjamin Doxee, Eliphalet Snedecor, James Thurber and Treadwell Smith.

In the early years, land had been acquired on E. Main Street at 2nd Avenue for a church building, but the Civil War delayed plans to erect a permanent structure. Finally, on Oct. 13, 1867, the cornerstone was laid for Bay Shore’s first church building. Lumber for the gothic-style building sailed to Bay Shore from Portland, Me. The bricks used for the foundation cost less than a penny each. The building was finished after two years of construction, with the final cost being $7,503, according to the Bay Shore-Brightwaters Chamber of Commerce. The church later raised another $21,000 to build a new sanctuary, completed in 1893. These two buildings, along with a Sunday school building that was dedicated in 1960, make up Bay Shore United Methodist Church today. 

“The United Methodist Church building on East Main Street in Bay Shore has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 2001,” said Barry Dlouhy, president of the Bay Shore Historical Society. “More importantly, it represents part of Bay Shore’s spiritual community. The members of the Bay Shore Historical Society hope that members of the UMC congregation succeed in their efforts to restore the building to its towering beauty.”

Church records bear witness to decades of service. Vacation bible school classes in the early 1900s were racially integrated long before the Supreme Court mandated desegregation. The milk committee distributed nourishments to the needy during the Great Depression, and the church bells were rung to signal air raid drills during the height of World War II. The sanctuary also hosted a 25-hour prayer vigil for peace amid the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962.

Donna Periconi, president of the Bay Shore-Brightwaters Chamber of Commerce, has reached out to the community for help. “We’ve been getting checks weekly,” Rev. Modeste said. 

Pastor Thomas Coogan, of St. Patrick’s R.C. Church on Clinton Avenue in Bay Shore, has also been very helpful by reaching out to his congregation and board of trustees for financial aid. 

Timmoney said one of the church’s biggest goals right now is painting. “We’ve painted over the years, but, in time, the paint begins to chip,” he said. “We’re hoping to paint again sometime in the spring.”

Head Start also donated a $63,000 outdoor classroom in December of last year.

The church recently applied for a $100,000 New York Annual Conference grant. There will also be an open house at the church on Sunday, Feb. 5 from 2 until 4 p.m. The first hour will be self-guided, while the second half will be a town hall-style meeting with a PowerPoint presentation. 

Checks can be made out to Bay Shore United Methodist Church and mailed to 107 E. Main Street, Bay Shore, c/o Rev. Wendy Modeste, or the Bay Shore-Brightwaters Chamber of Commerce, P.O. Box 5110, Bay Shore, NY, 11706.