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The Times
  • Historic church hosts Thanksgiving service

  • The doors at the Fort Herkimer Church were opened once again Thursday to welcome area residents and visitors to the annual Interfaith Thanksgiving Day service.

    Donald Fenner, chairman of the Board of Commissioners of the Fort Herkimer Church, climbed the stairs to the pulpit, which was recently restored to its original 1813 appearance, to welcome worshipers to the service.

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  • The doors at the Fort Herkimer Church were opened once again Thursday to welcome area residents and visitors to the annual Interfaith Thanksgiving Day service.
    Donald Fenner, chairman of the Board of Commissioners of the Fort Herkimer Church, climbed the stairs to the pulpit, which was recently restored to its original 1813 appearance, to welcome worshipers to the service.
    Fenner told the congregation the Classis of Montgomery of the Reformed Church of America had determined long ago the historic church should “belong to God’s people everywhere.” He pointed out one of the worshipers at the service was a man bicycling from Los Angeles to Maine.
    Fenner acknowledged the 75th anniversary of Temple Beth Joseph in Herkimer. He said an empty mansion once stood where the synagogue now stands in Herkimer. While the neighborhood children were afraid of the place, during wartime, “patriotism trumped fear” and he and others went inside and pulled out furnace grates, pipes and other metal items and took them to the scrap yard to help the war effort.
    Not long after that, the mansion was razed and Temple Beth Joseph was built there.
    “Forty-six years ago, when I was put in charge of this service, I was told to invite Temple Beth Joseph and I have done that,” said Fenner.
    He said that in 1974, after the annual service, he was informed the pews in the balcony were pulling way from the wall. “Rabbi Samuel Wrubel was adamant about how important it was to have this building ready for the nation’s bicentennial,” he recalled.
    A restoration committee was formed made up of people from several local communities and chaired by Irving Mason. This group raised enough money, with the help of matching funds from New York state, to do the necessary stabilization work to have the building ready for the bicentennial in 1976.
    “We’ve come a long way since then,” said Fenner. “We’d like to express our thanks to Temple Beth Joseph; they had a lot to do with this.”
    He also read an email he received from Eric Gloo, who tuned the piano for the service. Gloo said he had removed two large mouse nests from the piano. One of them was filled with what looked like bird feathers. “I never saw that before,” the email read.
    In addition to the work on the pulpit, the bell tower windows were removed, framed and reinstalled and the siding and rotted timbers were replaced and painted. Fenner said the canopy of the pulpit will be painted when funds become available.
    The choir, under the direction of Fay Davis and Sharon Palmer, sang “Let There Be Music” and “Blessing After Blessing,” as well as “God Be With You.”
    Rabbi Ronald Kopelman, of Temple Beth Joseph, delivered the Thanksgiving message, titled “No Thanks to God.” He pointed out that the misery of war that plagues mankind is not thanks to God, but to humanity.
    Page 2 of 2 - He said that in addition to thanking God for their blessings, people should also make a point of thanking one another — even for acts that seem to be simply part of their duties.
    “How many of you thank the waitress for filling your glass with water,” he asked. “Yes, it’s part of her job, but she works hard at it and gratitude makes the world a brighter place.”
    He said whether in the workplace or when serving on a committee, people are more likely to continue serving if their work and their ideas are acknowledged and appreciated.
    “People burn out when the fuel of gratitude is withheld,” he said.
    “No human being can realize his full potential without the appreciation and acceptance of others,” said Kopelman. He urged his listeners to “develop an attitude of gratitude.”
    Built between 1753 and 1767, Fort Herkimer Church is the second oldest church in New York state and the oldest building in Herkimer County. It functioned as a fortress during the French and Indian War and American Revolution and a place of worship for valley settlers.

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