A History of the
Sidney United Methodist Church
The following update added November 2014 by Rev. Tom Pullyblank:
More than 200 years ago, a circuit rider came to Sidney seeking a place to hold a series of revival meetings. After being refused the use of a church, he sought other buildings in the town. Ultimately, Mr. and Mrs. Arvine Clarke, who were among the town’s first settlers, offered their home to the wandering preacher. Friends and neighbors gathered each evening and soon a revival was in progress. As a result of these meetings, the first Methodist Episcopal Class was organized, with Mr. Clarke as leader. The First Methodist Church was built in 1831 on Main Street, with timber and lot donated by the Clarke family.
With the coming of the railroad in 1866, the Main Street site became too noisy. On August 29, 1870, a lot on Liberty Street was purchased and the church moved to its present site. A new church building was dedicated on May 22, 1871. The original church bell still hangs in the belfry. In 1887, the lot next to the church was purchased and a parsonage was built in 1888.
In 1919 a fund for the construction of a new church was created and, in 1933, ground was broken. On Palm Sunday, 1934 the dedication service for the present church was conducted.
In 1948, increasing church membership and activity necessitated expansion. The church basement was remodeled to include a choir room, storage space and a classroom. A new parsonage was built in 1953. In 1963 the education wing, kitchen and hall were added to the church building. A year after that, the Tri-Town Nursery School opened it’s doors to area pre-schoolers. It remains a vital part of life for many children and their parents to this day.
The beautiful triple stained glass window in the front of the church sanctuary depicts the original 1831 church, the figure of Christ before the open door, and the likenesses of Mr. and Mrs. Arvine Clarke, whose family members presented it to the church. Other windows show John Wesley preaching to the poor, Francis Asbury as a circuit rider, and symbols of the Gospels, our Doctrines and Sacraments. All three sanctuary windows display beautiful renderings of the magnificent creation that surrounds us. The window in the “cry-room,” the glassed-in room at the back of the sanctuary extension, is from the original 1831 church building.
The basement was expanded in 1948, the parsonage was built in 1953, and the church building was expanded in 1963 to its current size. Throughout the 1970′s, 1980′s and 1990′s, both the Sidney United Methodist Church and the surrounding community thrived. Until the merging of four conferences into one in 2010, the Sidney UMC also housed the Oneonta District office of the Wyoming Annual Conference, making the Sidney UMC an important church in United Methodist affairs.
In June 2006 the Susquehanna River overflowed its banks and flooded much of Sidney, including our church. Water filled the basement of the church, and 3-4 inches of water were on our sanctuary floor. Everything from the basement had to be discarded or cleaned many times. Hundreds of pails of mud had to be removed. The first worship service in July was held in the Sidney School parking lot in order to include those in the shelter; about seventy persons gathered for this service. We continued to worship every Sunday, meeting at St. Luke’s Lutheran church on West Main St. until our sanctuary was considered safe for worship. The parsonage received similar damage. Including damage to the first floor. A loan from SBA to cover repairs and replacements has been paid in full by the Wyoming Conference of the United Methodist Church. We now have a remodeled basement (including kitchen and fellowship hall) in the church, a new sanctuary floor, and a remodeled parsonage.
June 2006 also brought the end of the Rev. Dave Masland era at Sidney UMC as Pastor Dave moved on to become the Binghamton District Superintendent. Rev. Dr. Barbara Green was appointed to replace Pastor Dave, and has the distinction of being the Sidney UMC’s first female pastor. Pastor Barb endeared herself immediately to the Sidney community by spending countless hours talking to and encouraging people after the flood. Barb was also the first pastor to live outside the community, commuting from her home in Port Crane.
An administrative change in the United Methodist Church affected the church in 2010. For several years the annual conferences in upstate New York had been discussing some sort of new arrangement to deal with the realities of falling membership and church closings. In 2010, the Upper New York Annual Conference was born in an attempt to recharge United Methodist ministries in the state. A consequence of this change was the re-drawing of district boundaries–the Oneonta District grew eastward. A more central district office was desired, and First UMC in Oneonta was chosen as its home. Thus the Sidney church lost one of its longest-standing tenants, and lost a connection to the wider church that had nourished it for years.
2011 brought yet another flood and another change of appointment. The flood was brought on by Hurricane Lee, which struck the Susquehanna River Basin with almost as much force as the constant rains of 2006 had. The physical damage suffered by the church wasn’t as drastic as that of 2006, but the 2011 flood was just as demoralizing as the previous one. With the leadership of the new pastor, Rev. Susan Heafield, the Sidney UMC weathered that storm as well.
Along with Pastor Susan came her husband Brian Wren, widely recognized as one of the top hymn-writers in the world. Fourteen of Brian’s hymns are in the United Methodist Hymnal. Countless others are sung by congregations of all denominations. It was a great honor for the Sidney UMC to host Brian and Susan and to share their ministry for the time they were here!
In July, 2013, Rev. Tom Pullyblank began his appointment at the Sidney UMC. A farmer and writer as well as a pastor, Pastor Tom has deepened his connection with the church and community, as has his family. Despite all the challenges that have come our way over the past decade, the Sidney United Methodist Church has remained an essential source of life and love in the Sidney community. Dedicated, capable and faithful, the Sidney UMC congregation has never lost sight of it vision, “to go into the community with love, and invite all persons into a relationship with God and us through Christian-centered education and worship.”
The following update added February 2019 by Rev. Paul D. Winkelman:
At the end of December, 2017, Rev. Tom Pullyblank ended his time of pastoral service at the Sidney UMC. Rev. Cheryl Hine then served as the Interim Pastor of the Sidney UMC from January, 2018 through June, 2018. Rev. Hine’s service to God and the church had a great impact on the people of the church, and the community. Rev. Hine also retired from pastoral ministry at the end of June, 2018.
After being ordained as an Elder in the Upper New York Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church in June, 2018, Rev. Paul D. Winkelman was appointed to serve as the pastor of the Sidney UMC in July, 2018. Rev. Winkelman has a passion to preach and teach the gospel of Jesus Christ, a great love for people, is deeply grounded in the Bible, and along with his wife Melissa, are happy to be serving in Sidney.