For more than a century and a half now, the church at 132 Mohawk Ave. in Scotia has helped its parishioners lead a long and Christian life — with the emphasis on long.
That’s according to Audrey Trudell, who offers up her older sister Jane Lansing, now 92, and the church’s oldest couple, 100-year-old Fred Lanoue and his 95-year-old wife Evelyn, as living proof. Trudell, who joined the First Baptist Church of Scotia 63 years ago, is only 90.
“There’s a longevity connected to our church,” said Trudell, who ancestors started attending services there in 1903 when 18-year-old Millie Trudell moved to Scotia. “My husband’s aunt was 100 in 1992 when she died; our oldest church member right now is 100, and his wife is 95. I’ll be 91 in March and my sister’s 92, and we’re both still going. It’s a wonderful place — keeps you young.”
Now renamed the City View Church, the congregation was formally organized in 1840, and the current brick structure went up in 1872, replacing an earlier wooden building. There were major additions or alterations in 1905, 1929, 1950 and 1987, the final renovation covering the interior fieldstone walls while also creating new office space, a kitchen and a gas heating system.
“I can remember we all pitched in and put on our dust masks and took out the big iron pipes that used to hold up the main sanctuary,” said Trudell, referring to the 1987 work. “We changed the rooms around a bit, added the new rooms for offices, and we raised the money to refurbish the church ourselves. We’d call them rally rounds. We’d have dances and parties, and the pastor — he was a good sport — would sit in a dunking booth and he would get dunked in water to help raise money.”
Village blacksmith John Closson is credited as being the founder of the church, having asked Schenectady pastor the Rev. Abram Dunn Gillette, a Baptist, to preach to a small group of residents who didn’t feel comfortable attending services at the nearby First Reformed. During that period, Scotia was just a hamlet in Schenectady County, and the Baptist church was the westernmost building in the town.
“But Reesville was just down the street where Sacandaga Road is now,” said Scotia Village Historian Beverly Clark, referring to the small settlement named after the Reese family, major broomcorn growers in that area throughout much of the 19th century. “The church had been the westernmost building in Scotia, and there was some separation between the two hamlets, but in the second half of the century the street started to fill in, and in 1904 the whole area was incorporated as the village of Scotia.”
It was a year earlier that Millie Trudell moved into the area from Canada, and in 1905, when Millie was ill, her brother, Frank H. Trudell, visited his sister in Scotia. While Millie died in 1906 at the age of 21, her brother Frank, who is Audrey’s father-in-law, was baptized at the church and remained in Scotia the rest of his life, running a small general store on Sacandaga Road. Audrey, a lifelong Baptist who grew up in Esperance, married Frank’s son, Gerald Trudell, and the family's name is stenciled into the windows of the front doors leading into the church.
Baptist no more
The building’s new name was the idea of the Rev. Greg Clark, who moved from Texas to Scotia with his wife and two children during the summer of 2012 and was named senior pastor in April of 2013.
“We changed our name because we know there are some people out there who might be opposed to what they think the Baptist church is all about,” said Clark. “We decided to remove that objection because for a long time the Baptists did take a hard line on certain things. We don’t want to be consumed by our preferences. We want to be a church that follows Jesus, not a particular denomination.”
While the congregation is officially no longer associated with the Baptist church, Clark said it’s only a technicality.
“I grew up in Texas as a Baptist, so I still feel very connected to them,” he said, “and it’s not like we changed who we are. We’re the same people, we’re just not officially connected to them. We’re an independent church that focuses on people and their needs. It took a little while for some, but eventually I think everyone came to that understanding.”
City View Church officially relaunched in September of 2013, and has quickly grown by more than 50 percent since then, according to Clark.
“We did our public relaunch in September and 173 people showed up, which was well up from the 63 the week before,” said Clark. “There’s a rule that when you do a relaunch, you lose about half the people from the first week. Well, we did drop down the second week to 96, but we’ve continued to grow since then and right now our numbers are around 130.”
A worship pastor at a Baptist church in Fort Worth before heading to upstate New York, Clark continues to make music a big part of the Saturday and Sunday services at City View. The church has services Saturday night at 6 and Sunday at 10 a.m., at which contemporary music is played, and an 8:30 Sunday morning service at which traditional church music is played.
“We have people who enjoy the traditional service with the singing of the hymns and the pipe organs, and we accomodate them,” said Clark. “There are always going to be people who enjoy that style of musical worship, and that’s fine. We also have a full band that performs during our other services, and there are people who identify with that more.”
Associate pastor Jay Richmond, who has been at the church for nine years, appreciates the new life Clark has helped bring to the congregation.
“We’re anchored to the rock, but we’re geared to the times,” said Richmond. “There’s been a lot of change over the last year, and it’s great to see younger folk come to our church and to see people get involved in other people’s lives. It’s been exciting.”
The church can hold about 180 people comfortably. The wooden pews and the stained glass windows are original to the 1872 structure, and the organ was installed in 1905. Half of the total cost of $1,250 for the organ was donated by Andrew Carnegie.
The history of the church, which also has a cozy fellowship hall and a gymnasium downstairs, has been well documented by two of Schenectady County’s most prominent historians, Neil Reynolds and Larry Hart. Both were longtime members of the church.
Reynolds was born in Scotia in 1903 and got his undergraduate and master’s degree from Union College and his doctorate in physics from Princeton. A chemical engineer at General Electric as well as an avid photographer, Reynolds was historian for the village of Scotia from 1946-59. He died in 1993.
Hart, meanwhile, a Schenectady native, lived in Scotia and Glenville much of his life and was a longtime reporter and photographer with both the Schenectady Gazette and Union-Star newspapers. He was the author of many local history books and also served as Schenectady County historian. Hart died in 2004.
“I remember them both, and they were very nice,” said Audrey Trudell. “We’ve met a lot of wonderful and friendly people in this church, and that’s why we brought up three kids in it and had two daughters married here. I’ve been here for a lot of ministers, something like 12 or 13 of them, and I like the guys we have now, but I’ve always said, ‘Ministers may come and go, but I’ll stay with this church forever.’ ”
Reach Gazette reporter Bill Buell at 395-3190 or firstname.lastname@example.org.