St. Paul’s United Methodist Church, the oldest existing church in Northport, is modernizing both the building and its religious principles.
The church, located on Main Street in the village’s downtown, is embarking on a $300,000 restoration project that will focus on repairing St. Paul’s steeple, preserving stained-glass windows, rebuilding the exterior woodwork of the church and upgrading restrooms. Plans to restore the kitchen, choir room and improve accessibility are also underway.
The original church building was built in 1852, but was replaced by the current structure in 1873.
“We have hundreds of guests that use this church in addition to the church members, so we want to be able to provide upgraded, a little more pleasant facilities for our guests,” said Charles MacLeod, the campaign’s chairman and a member of the church for 30 years.
The church, which has about 180 members, so far has raised 70 percent of its goal. Work is expected to begin midsummer.
Alex Edwards-Bourdez, who works as the church’s publicity director, said that past renovations to church facilities have made the building more accessible to outside groups.
“After we refinished the floor of the gym, put in new basketball backboards, reinforced windows, and put in much better lighting . . . we really have brought people in,” Edwards-Bourdez said.
Another way St. Paul’s has brought people in the past couple of years is through a change in its inclusion policy and opening doors to the LGBTQ community.
In early 2016, St. Paul’s added a welcoming statement to their church, encouraging people of all sexualities, genders and cultures to attend church.
The Rev. Penny Gadzini, who is the church’s pastoral care pastor, wants the church to be a place all feel welcome.
“[We] invite all people into life with God,” Gadzini said, “where it’s all about love and service and joy, and the gifts of the spirit.”
Molly Powell, a Hauppauge resident and new member of St. Paul’s, said joining the church has made her feel more confident in her faith.
“My girlfriend and I started dating last December of 2016, and around November of last year we started talking about getting involved in a church,” Powell said.
After Powell’s girlfriend, Kaitlin Brand of Setauket, met the church’s senior pastor, the Rev. Kristina Hansen, at a Starbuck’s, she suggested the two visit the church.
“Every single person in [the church] was incredibly welcoming,” Powell said.
Gadzini said she believes the renovations on the church building and the spiritual teachings of the church go hand-in-hand.
“When people are included and connected and passionate about who we are and what we’re doing, things like the space really matter, which is a wonderful way to have it work,” Gadzini said.