In September 2013, the bell tower that sat atop the Ballston Center Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church was destroyed in a fire.
Almost immediately after the fire occurred the church hired a number of people to repair the damage caused by a lightning strike.
On Sunday about 100 people attended a ceremony to honor the men and women who were involved in the restoration of the church.
Burnt Hills Fire Department Chief Stephen Peterson was among the honorees. He was one of the firefighters who responded to the scene after a nearby resident reported the fire.
“This fire was extremely difficult to put out because of how old the church is,” he said.
Peterson, a Ballston Lake resident, added that he is amazed the construction was completed so quickly.
“I look up there now and it looks no different than it was before, they did an amazing job,” he said.
The church also honored the architect who helped redesign the worshipping hall and a number of people who assisted in the reconstruction process.
Because firefighters had to use a large amount of water to put out the fire, some of it leaked through the bell tower and damaged part of the worshipping hall inside the church.
During the nine months that the worshipping hall was under construction, Sunday services were held in a recreation center located inside the church.
In June, the church was able to open the doors of the worshipping hall once again and use the space for Sunday services.
The church’s pastor, the Rev. Charles Roberts, called it a “blessing” that so many people chipped in to help restore the church. The cost of reconstruction was covered by insurance.
“When this first happened it seemed like a tragedy,” said Roberts. “But we were really able to turn it around in a short amount of time.”
In an effort to modernize the church, two new flat television screens were added to the worshipping hall, Roberts said.
Beth Sylvestri has been a member of the church nearly all her life.
When she first heard that the bell tower had been destroyed in a fire and that some of the church was damaged she was shocked.
“When I drove up and saw the damage it broke my heart,” she said. “It was really freaky to see a place where you basically grew up in such bad shape.”
Ironically, in 1993 the church was burned down in a fully involved structural fire with the bell tower being the only part to survive the flames.
“It’s pretty weird that the tower was able to survive that and then 20 years later it was burned down,” she said.
Sylvestri said when she first heard that television screens would be placed in the worshipping hall she had some trepidation.
She was worried that they would take away from the traditional feel of the church. But those feelings quickly subsided when people were able to see the restoration.
“When the doors were opened in June I was amazed,” she said. “I couldn’t believe what a good job they had done.”
Craig MacDonald, a longtime churchgoer, echoed those sentiments and said that he hasn’t heard anyone say anything negative about the restoration.
“People are happy to have their worshipping space back and to be able to see the bell tower once again,” he said.
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