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Port Jeff church to reopen Palm Sunday

Formerly known as First Baptist Church of Port

Formerly known as First Baptist Church of Port Jefferson, this church will reopen its doors on Palm Sunday, April 17 after nine months of renovations. The church's new name is Island Christian Church. (April 12, 2011) Credit: Jasmin Frankel

The sound of a 160-year-old organ playing and the smell of fresh paint filled the air of the Island Christian Church on a recent day as final touches were being placed on $250,000 renovation of the Port Jefferson Village building.

Built in the 1850s and recognized as First Baptist Church in the 1860s, the church was split 20 years ago over a disagreement between two pastors, and the departing pastor brought half of the church’s congregants with him, said former pastor Elmer Porter Hardy Jr.

“The church never regained its past strength,” he said.

The church, located on East Main Street, saw a brief rise in members in from 15 to around 40 in 2009, but last year again saw membership return to around 15, Hardy said.

So church officials last year contacted another Baptist church, Island Christian Church, which has two other locations -- in Northport and Holtsville -- to see if it would acquire the building and take over First Baptist.

Island Christian agreed.

“We want to bring in new life to this church,” said Outreach Pastor Joseph Garofalo, of Island Christian’s Northport church.

After nine months of renovations, during which limited services were provided, the church will reopen this weekend under its new moniker and with a new pastor, Pete Jansson, for Palm Sunday services at 10 a.m.

Jansson said the renovations -- which include new nursery rooms, a new air conditioning and heating system, a staircase, an audio sound board and even touches to its 7-foot by 4-foot cross -- aimed to keep most of the building’s former structure while bringing in modern amenities and comfort.

But the most important element that makes a church whole, according to Jansson, is its members.

“The church is not just about the building, but the people,” Jansson said.

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