The vaulted ceilings of Proctors’ Key Hall reverberated with the happy sounds of birthday festivities Sunday afternoon.
A few hundred gathered to celebrate the 90th birthday of Schenectady’s Calvary Tabernacle Assemblies of God Church.
Nine decades of continuous service is quite an achievement and it was quite a party.
The place was crowded with people in their classy Sunday best and vest-wearing waiters offering hors d’oeuvres.
Event planner and the pastor’s daughter Bianca Agnes made the rounds, pointing out the main elements of the celebration.
There were tables of scrapbooks reaching back to the church’s 1922 founding, and a wall of written testimonies. She stopped at a table covered with small stones.
“These are stones of remembrance,” she said, explaining in the Bible — Joshua four — after God stopped the waters of the Jordan River so the Nation of Israel could cross, the 12 tribes were instructed to take stones and build a monument to remember God’s faithfulness.
“We couldn’t have made it 90 years without God’s faithfulness,” she said.
Greta Bowman picked up one of the stones and wrote “Rescue” on it, putting it with a pile of other stones inscribed with Bible verses and the like.
“Because God rescues me from myself,” she said.
Bowman has been going to the church for about 16 years, since roughly the time Pastor Lorenzo Agnes came to the church.
Before that, it was mainly an Italian congregation of about 120.
“I remember when I was a kid, the services were in Italian,” said John Saglimbeni, of Colonie who has attended the church for 50 years, “It’s hard to believe that many years have past.”
He said his mother-in-law, Yolanda Ricci, was one of the founding members, back when the church met in people’s homes and was headed up by Felix Rizzo.
Saglimbeni was one of the many original Italians in attendance, but the event wasn’t just about the past.
“This is a modern church,” said Mahadhi Walker. “It’s a missional church. We’re not afraid to change and get better.”
In the past 15 years, the church has grown to an average congregation of about 650 each Sunday, and it’s a diverse bunch.
Six years ago, the 1840 Albany St. church building was expanded to create an 800-seat sanctuary, with the old sanctuary converted to a gym and youth outreach center.
It was one of their basketball events that brought Walker in as a 17-year-old.
In the past five years, he’s brought many of his family members to church.
“When we came here, the church was well known in the community, but not very involved,” said Lorenzo Agnes. “Now we’re very involved. We work with the homeless, the public schools and widows and orphans on four continents.”
After 90 years, Agnes said the church has much more to do in the community before it turns 100.
“There is a saying that Schenectady used to light the world with GE,” he said. “I would like Schenectady to light the world again, spiritually.”
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