Knox Reformed Church celebrates 175 years

— Enterprise file photo

The Knox Reformed Church was moved to its current site, on the hamlet’s main street, the Berne-Altamont Road, in 1902.

KNOX — The Knox Reformed Church was founded in 1842 when John Tyler was president, and half of what is now the United States wasn’t part of the country.

The church has served generations of Knox families in their times of greatest joy and sorrow — babies are baptized there, couples are wed there, and funerals are held there.

A mainstay of the rural town’s community life, the small, white, steepled building was moved to its current spot in 1902, facing Knox’s main street. That’s also when a church hall and horse shed were constructed.

The simple structure boasts a grand chandelier, once given to the First Church in Albany by Queen Anne of England. Wired for electricity in 1946, the chandelier sheds light in the sanctuary. A hand-crocheted “Lord’s Prayer” also graces the sanctuary.

A long list of the church’s historic milestones was compiled by the late Virginia Quay for its 140th anniversary. Her daughter, Sandra Quay, has been working for over a year to plan the events for the church’s 175th anniversary celebration.

It begins on Saturday with a dinner where former pastors are guests of honor. Quay excitedly listed some of them: The late Donald Hull, who served as pastor in the 1960s, will be represented by his son, Timothy. Peter Berry, who was pastor in the 1970s, is coming from New Jersey. And Mary Van Andel, who ministered at Knox in the 1980s, will be returning, with her family, from Michigan.

 

— Enterprise file photo
For generations, members of the Knox Reformed Church Ladies’ Aid Society stitched fine quilts and raised funds to support church projects. Virginia Quay is front and center.

 

On Sunday, the 11 a.m. worship is open to everyone. “All of the ministers will participate,” said Quay, “and there will be a coffee hour afterwards.”

Quay, who is 70, as been a member of the church for 56 years. “We have a community within the church, supporting each other,” she said. “It’s very important. You develop a lot of good friendships and you’re able to help people when they need support — financial support, or just someone to talk to.”

A member of the consistory, the church’s governing body, Quay estimated Knox Reformed has 60 members. The oldest member is Jennie Stevens. She is 98.

“She takes the reservation for the chicken supper,” said Quay.

This November will mark the centennial for the church’s Election Day Chicken Supper. For 100 years, Knox residents of different political parties have gathered together on Election Day to share a robust homemade meal.

Other traditions have come and gone with the times. A long-time ladies’ quilting group ended “when they got down to just two people,” said Quay. The Ladies’ Aid Society, as it had been called, raised funds for many church projects.

The church’s social club is still going strong, sponsoring a Christmas party every December. And the Sunday school, active for more than 100 years, now serves 15 to 20 children, Quay said.

Music has always played an important role in the church. Vertie Gibbs started as the church organist in 1910 and continued for 50 years. Wally Quay bested her record, serving as church organist for 52 years before he retired in 2014.

Wally Quay’s first five years as church organist, from 1962 to 1967, he played a pump organ that produced sound with foot-pumped bellows. Then a Baldwin organ was purchased, followed by the current Allen organ, which Quay helped select in 1992, presented in memory of Orpha Gage Quay, his teacher.

When Quay retired as church organist in 2014, he told The Enterprise that hymns inspired him more than sermons. “When you get older, you find you pay more attention to the Bible, you realize the value of life more,” he said, concluding, “Certain songs have more spirituality...This sounds crazy, but a lot of gospel songs lead you to something.”

People used to ride horse-drawn carriages to the church but, in 1926, the carriage platform was removed as worshippers arrived by automobile. In 1934, modernization continued as running water was installed in the kitchen and a bathroom was installed, too.

Generosity, too, followed the furrows of history. During World War II, the “Knox Frolics” were held to get funds so Christmas boxes could be sent to soldiers overseas. In the 1990s, money was raised to give Christmas gifts to people suffering from AIDS.

To celebrate the nation’s bicentennial in 1976, the church bell was run for 10 minutes. The next year, a carillon was installed. In the current decade, a Prayer Garden was dedicated.

“We’re happy the church is still running,” Sandra Quay said this week. “We have to be careful with money — there’s always repairs — but we hope to be running for a long, long time.”

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