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12/22/15 9:00am
12/22/2015 9:00 AM

KATHARINE SCHROEDER PHOTO

The following is The Suffolk Times’ annual listing of Christmas services and special events hosted by local churches.

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05/28/15 1:13pm
05/28/2015 1:13 PM
Construction crews load the remains of the First Universalist Church into dumpsters at the site Thursday morning.

A construction worker loads the remains of the First Universalist Church into dumpsters at the site Thursday morning.

The historic First Universalist Church, which was almost totally destroyed by fire in March, has seen its last day.

The few remaining pieces of the building left standing — the lone eastern wall and the back rooms — were leveled Thursday morning by a construction crew.

The church, dating back to 1835 and located at the bend of Main Road near Southold village, was badly damaged in a fire that broke out March 14. Investigators later said the fire was not suspicious.

The church’s congregation hosted a farewell service for the church earlier this month and have been meeting for regular weekly services at another historic building: the Custer Institute observatory down the road.

The First Universalist Church had been restored in 1907, with the now-lost steeple getting its own restoration roughly 80 years later after it was damaged by Hurricane Gloria, according to Suffolk Times articles.

Church leadership is currently exploring ideas to rebuild or relocate, church president Susi Young told the Suffolk Times.

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05/04/15 10:00am
05/04/2015 10:00 AM
The First Universalist Church is expected to be torn down this week. (Credit: Jen Nuzzo)

First Universalist Church is expected to be torn down this week. (Credit: Jen Nuzzo)

Before the rubble at First Universalist Church in Southold is hauled away this week, the community gathered Sunday afternoon to say farewell to the burned-down building.

Pastor Jef Gamblee asked the crowd to respond with the words: “We bid the building at the bend farewell.”

The historic church, located along an arcing stretch of Main Road, was lost in a fire March 14.  But while the building is no more, congregants say they believe the sense of unity the church has provided lives on.

During the portion of the service when people were asked to share their memories, Melissa Pond said the church was important to her because she never felt judged.

“I was a pretty weird kid growing up and the church was the one place where I didn’t feel weird,” she said. “It’s not the building that’s important. It’s the people.”

After the Rev. Donald McKinney made his remarks about the church, he told a reporter that he focused his comments on its windows because he would marvel at them.

“Every single time I come into that church, I think of those windows and their power to make you think that the world is with us all the time — with its goodness and all its problems,” he said. “The church, of course, is its people, but that building did more to express what people’s faith is all about than most buildings.”

The church was founded in 1835 and the building was designed by William D. Cochran. A 1989 article in The Suffolk Times credits architect Richard Lathers with designing a restoration of the church in 1907. The church steeple was restored in 1989, several years after sustaining damage in Hurricane Gloria, according to an earlier Suffolk Times article.

Church president Susi Young said First Universalist leadership is gathering information and community input about rebuilding.

“We haven’t made that decision, but that’s what we hope,” she said. “There’s a lot of different ideas and we have to listen to everybody. The community has been just wonderful to us and that’s been very gratifying.”

Pastor Jef, as he’s known, said he believes that feelings people have about the church would have stayed in their hearts and souls even if the church hadn’t burned down.

“As we look at the burned-out wreckage, Yoda comes to mind,” he said. “And a comment he might make: ‘The memories are strong with that one.’ And they are.”

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Rev. Donald McKinney.

Rev. Donald McKinney.

Pastor Jef Gamblee.

Pastor Jef Gamblee.

Rev. Peter Kelley, First Presbyterian Church of Southold.

Rev. Peter Kelley, First Presbyterian Church of Southold.

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