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Three Mile Bay United Methodist Church to celebrate 175th anniversary on Sept. 15

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THREE MILE BAY — The United Methodist Church here will celebrate its 175th anniversary on Sunday with a special worship service and dinner.

It begins at 5:30 p.m. with a covered dish supper (open to the public) at the church, 8545 Route 12E, followed by a 7 p.m. worship service. Celebrating with the congregation will be Bishop Mark J. Webb, episcopal leader of the Upper New York Area of the United Methodist Church, which covers most of the state.

The Most Rev. Mr. Webb was elected bishop on July 19, 2012, at the Northeastern Jurisdictional Conference in Charleston, W.Va. He holds a master of divinity degree from Asbury Theological Seminary, Wilmore, Ky., and a bachelor’s degree from Shippensburg University in Pennsylvania. In 2007, he became district superintendent of the York District of the Susquehanna Conference.

Also joining the celebration will be the Rev. Rebekah Sweet, superintendent of the Northern Flow District, which covers an area from Pulaski to Chateaugay to Martinsburg. Superintendents are members of the bishop’s cabinet.

The United Methodist dignitaries will be welcomed by the church’s pastor, the Rev. Mark L. Pierce.

In a letter to parishioners, the Rev. Mr. Pierce said the church has survived through wars, economic upheavals and national political failings.

“Yet, through prayers and labors, the light of faith in Three Mile Bay still shines,” he wrote. “It is a light worth continuing, a light worth supporting and worth celebrating.”

In addition to faith, a big part in the church’s continuance is its monthly chicken and biscuit dinners and its ongoing pie sales.

“These are the things that help to keep our church to keep going,” said parishioner and volunteer Emilie Cuppernell.

A dedicated team of volunteers creates a dozen different kinds of pies all year-round. The 10-inch creations, unbaked, are stored in one of the church’s five freezers. If you want a pie, which costs $11, call Mrs. Cuppernell at 649-2404 or Sally Grimshaw at 649-2978. They, or someone else, will arrive at the church for the pie transaction. Pie makers will even bake one for you, for an extra dollar.

The chicken and biscuit dinners are held on the third Wednesday of each month, except December, beginning at 4 p.m. Cost is $9 for adults, $4.50 for children age 5 to 12 and free for children under 5.

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The United Methodist Church in Three Mile Bay was founded in 1838 by Benjamin Dyden of Depauville. That was the second year of the Patriot War fought along the New York and Canadian border. Hundreds of men on both sides of the border took up arms to free Canada from supposed British tyranny.

The church then was known as the Methodist Episcopal Church. Ten years later, the Three Mile Bay circuit was formed, including Point Peninsula, North Shore, Fox Creek, Burnt Park and Chaumont. In 1857, all but Chaumont quit the circuit. Chaumont later dropped out, leaving Three Mile Bay on its own.

Services were held in the Union Hotel ballroom until 1854, when the first church for the parish was completed, costing about $5,000. Residents of the area attended service in the church until it was destroyed by a fire.

The present church was built around 1890 and included a steeple, which was partially removed in 1973.

The hamlet’s grist mill made Three Mile Bay more of an industrial center than Watertown toward the end of the 19th century. But changes in the railroad and shipping businesses shifted the focus away from the hamlet and the town settled into a quieter existence.

About 10 years ago, church members raised about $75,000 — the largest fund drive in its history — to restore eight of the two-panel stained glass windows in the church’s sanctuary. The 12-foot-tall windows, which had been installed 111 years earlier, bear the names of people who donated funds to help purchase them. One window names the church’s founders and members of its youth group at the turn of the century.

One two-panel window, which includes a depiction of an anchor, is dedicated to the memory of Asa Wilcox, a local shipbuilder who also constructed the church and the Little White Church by the Lake on Point Peninsula.

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