The East Bethany Presbyterian Church is celebrating its 200th anniversary on June 3 and 4, inviting past and present church members, and the community to join the festivities.
In 1817, 11 members were a part of the congregational church society, but later voted to adopt the Presbyterian form of government in 1829. Robert Carlsen, a 55-year member, said there are 68 members now.
“We’re a small group but we have some of the most wonderful people you’ll want to meet,” Carlsen said. “We have been very lucky to have the younger ones, between the ages of 25 and 40, join our church.”
Carlsen said they have been preparing for the 200th anniversary for a few years by painting the outside of the church and touching up the inside.
Rev. Michael Stuart is the current part-time pastor and the spiritual care manager of HomeCare & Hospice, of Western New York.
According to a book of history compiled by Mary Jane Heywood, there have been 50 ministers of the congregation since 1817.
Carlsen said the biggest change he has seen for the church has been membership.
“We don’t have a men’s group or a ladies' group anymore,” Carlsen said. “There’s no choir anymore, only on special occasions. We are fortunate to have the younger ones in our church, but they’re busy.”
Carlsen said his wife was a Sunday School teacher for more than 20 years.
“I can remember when we had a Sunday School of 20,” Carlsen said, “now we have four.”
Carlsen said he hopes to have 80 members in the next 10 years.
“It’s a small amount, but at least it would be a step in the right direction,” Carlsen said. “I feel if we can keep doing what we’re doing and maintain the 68 members and add more to get up to 80, that would be wonderful.”
On June 3, there will be a meet and greet at 3 p.m. followed by a service of celebration at 4:30. A catered dinner will be held after the service and a memory hour will be held at 6:30.
On June 4, past and present East Bethany Presbyterian Church pastors will lead a workshop service at 10:30 a.m.
“People are leaving and moving away,” Carlsen said. “I’m hoping this celebration will bring them back.”
The church is located at 5735 Ellicott Street Road in East Bethany.