The day after a fire tore through Yaphank Presbyterian Church, Jeffrey Schneider stood outside the charred building on Main Street taking in what remained of the 163-year-old church.
“It was heartbreaking to see,” said Schneider, who lives in Kings Park, but remembered the church from his years growing up in nearby Sound Beach. “The fire just burned through everything.”
The Dec. 8 blaze occurred while Schneider, the artistic director for the North Shore Chamber Choir, was making plans for the singing group’s annual Hymn Fest. The music festival -- slated for Jan. 26 at 4 p.m. at St. John the Baptist Church in Wading River -- brings together singers from across the region to perform religious hymns in conjunction with church readings.
In past years, the event served as a fundraiser for the North Shore Chamber Choir, Schneider said, but upon learning about the devastating fire, the group decided to donate all the money collected at Hymn Fest 2014 to the church to fund its rebuilding efforts.
“It’s a great time to get together and help out our neighbors,” he added.
Glorya Johnson, pastor of Yaphank Presbyterian Church, said she was “blown away” by the offer to help.
Right now, Johnson said, the church is still standing, but badly damaged. The left rear corner of the building is completely gone, and its six, large stained-glass windows, which blew out during the blaze, have been replaced with wooden boards.
Johnson said an engineer will assess the building this week to determine whether any structural components are salvageable. Then church officials can begin to formulate a plan.
In the meantime, Johnson said her congregation has been holding services and social group meetings in a community center on the property that was not affected by the fire.
“A church is really the people, but the building is like your home,” she said. “We're missing that right now.”
For Hymn Fest 2014 to be a success, Schneider said he needs more voices. He’s inviting adult singers of all levels to sign up to perform by filling out the form at nschamberchoir.org or by calling 631-929-8549, preferably by Jan. 10. Registration is $40, plus the cost of music ($25). Rehearsals will take place on Jan. 24 and Jan. 25.
Although Schneider said his group isn’t charging admission for the concert, donations are strongly encouraged.