Schenectady’s Woodlawn Reformed Church closes, will be sold

Woodlawn Reformed ChurchThe Woodlawn Reformed Church in Schenectady. Photo by Peter R. Barber.
Schenectady church Woodlawn Reformed Church

The Woodlawn Reformed Church in Schenectady. Photo by Peter R. Barber.

SCHENECTADY — A Schenectady church, Woodlawn Reformed Church,  at 1858 State St. has closed, its final Sunday service having been held June 22.

Fred Daniels, chairman of the Operations Committee for the Schenectady Classis of the Reformed Church of America, confirmed last week that the congregation has disbanded because of dwindling membership, most of its remaining congregants heading to the Lisha Kill Reformed Church a few miles east at 2131 Central Ave.

“The congregation was working with the classis for about six months or so, trying to figure out a way to stay open and be viable, but we ultimately concluded that it just didn’t seem likely,” said Daniels. “Now the plan is to sell it, and we’re in the middle of moving forward on that.”

The Woodlawn Reformed congregation had been sharing the building with a congregation from the Higher Hope Church of God in Christ. That group will continue to rent the building until a buyer is found, according to Daniels.

While the Woodlawn Reformed congregation has been in existence since December 1909, the building at 1858 State St. was built in 1949 upon an earlier structure put up in 1924. E.L. Swartout was the minister at the time in 1949, and under his leadership the church grew quickly to include more than 400 members.

Sid Brown, a lifelong Schenectadian and former Gazette photographer, grew up in the church and was at the final service June 22.

“I went to Sunday school there, and I can remember when I got drafted in 1945 I left and the church was pretty much just a basement,” remembered Brown, 87. “Then when I got back after being in the service, this nice big building had been built.”

Brown said there were two services held on the final Sunday at the Schenectady church.

“We had our regular meeting at 10, and then we had another service at 4,” he said. “There were a lot of people that showed up. We invited a lot of the old members and friends of the church, and it was quite a crowd. It’s sad, but we just didn’t have enough members two keep going.”

The congregation’s pastor, Derek DeJager, declined to comment on the closing.

DeJager came to Woodlawn Reformed in 2006 to replace Art Hudak, the congregation’s pastor for the previous 25 years. It was Hudak who spirited a revival of the church’s membership when he first arrived there in 1981. However, in 2006, some personal problems led to Hudak’s suspension from the church along with a three-year probation period. In April 2010, he took over at the Trinity Reformed Church in Rotterdam and has helped that congregation, once in danger of closing, keep its doors open.

—By Bill Buell, Gazette Reporter

This article originally appeared in The Daily Gazette.