Webster Baptist Church: some history and a call for donations

15 Jan

If you know the Village of Webster even a little, then you’re probably familiar with the Webster Baptist Church. This beautiful cobblestone church on South Avenue, with its stately bell tower, has stood proudly in our village since the mid-1800s.

What you probably didn’t know is that the Webster Baptist Church is actually famous for precisely the reason it’s so beautiful: it’s the only cobblestone building in the country that’s still being used for its original purpose.

According to Webster Through the Years by Esther Dunn (1971), the church was originally established in 1832, in a frame meeting house built on the site of the current church. In 1855 the old frame building was moved to Corning Park and used as the Webster Academy until it was destroyed by fire in 1872.

The new cobblestone building was built on the same site and dedicated on Jan. 1, 1857. Most of the field stones were donated by citizens of the community, and the cobblestones were gathered by members of the congregation along the shores of Lake Ontario. Each was passed through a hole in a board to make sure it was of a certain shape and size.

In recognition of its rich history, the Webster Baptist Church was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1991. That designation alone illustrates how important this building, and its history, are to our village.

Now, it needs our help.

It’s been a long time since the Webster Baptist Church has seen any major renovations, and it’s really beginning to show its age. The stained glass windows all need repairing, to the tune of $8,000 to $10,000 each. In many places, the cobblestone facade needs some professional attention. And the church entrance has to be updated with a ramp or new sidewalk to accommodate handicapped parishioners. And all of these expenses are piled on top of the regular costs for upkeep and utilities.

To help raise money, the Webster Baptist Church is holding a year-long fundraiser. Community members are invited to purchase individual bricks to show their support for this historic church. Bricks cost $150 each (but larger donations are more than welcome) and they can be personally inscribed. The bricks for now will be placed near the front of the building in a small area currently filled with white stones. If enough bricks are purchased, the hope is to use them to build a new sidewalk leading to the front door. It’s estimated that would take about 1,500 bricks.

Church Moderator Diana Marchner hopes that the entire community — individuals as well as businesses — will pull together to help save the church by purchasing bricks, or just donating any amount they’d like. 

“(The church) is historical,” she said. “It should be important to the Town of Webster and the Village as well as just our church.”  “We need everyone’s commitment to make this possible.” 

Ultimately, Marchner added, the goal is to “get to a point where we don’t have to worry about the money, just worry about the people.”

“I don’t want to get people to church because we need their money. I want them to come to church because we love them.”

Click here for more information and a form to fill out to buy a brick or donate any amount to the Webster Baptist Church. You can also visit this GoFundMe page to donate online.

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(posted 1/15/2023)

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