In the center of Newburgh is the oldest church building in the city. In good times and bad, particularly through the turmoil of the 1960s and the demolition of more than a thousand buildings in the city for so-called urban renewal in the early 1970s, St. George’s Episcopal Church on Grand Street has remained steadfast. It stands today as a spiritual home and one of the Hudson Valley’s and New York State’s most historic sacred sites.
Perhaps, just perhaps, the people channeled the determination of the minister who originally led St. George’s in the building of this striking sacred structure nearly 200 years ago. Are people guided by the spirit of a sacred place’s spiritual ancestors? How much can such resilience shape a community around it in good times and in bad? This church makes one weigh such possibilities and impact.
In the disorder and disturbances a half-century ago, some members of St. George’s Episcopal Church in Newburgh believed that the congregation should move from Grand Street, where it had been since the early 19th century, to the suburbs. But the parish did not relocate. The congregation’s vestry, its committee elected to administer such matters, decided that St. George’s should hold fast in its historic place, in the center of this Orange County city.
Some might think it farfetched that a 19th century minister’s spirit would influence the church many, many decades later. However, even in 2016, the Rev. Dr. John Brown’s determination and influence feel relevant, in the history, spiritual presence, and elegant simplicity of this Federal-style building, its artifacts, and the prominence in church literature. The Rev. Brown was all of 26 years old when, two years after he was called to become St. George’s rector, he led church members in erecting this picturesque church, which the Right Rev. John Hobart, New York diocese bishop, consecrated on Nov. 10, 1819. [Read more →]