By Jeanne Sager
LIVINGSTON MANOR January 21, 2005 A treasured family picture tells the Reverend Robert Hoag as much about the past of his church as the future.
In it, the pastors grandfather, RJ, stands with a group of other men, all elders of the Livingston Manor Presbyterian Church.
The men are all decked out in their "Sunday go-to-meeting clothes," Hoag said, and theyre standing proudly.
They represented the churchs most powerful members at the time, all faithful and all male.
Things are different in todays church, Hoag said Sunday, during a service dedicated to the 125th anniversary of the Presbytery in Livingston Manor.
Women are deacons, elders, ushers.
The people of the church speak to God as "you," theyve bedecked the home of their faith with candles and decorations that once would have made the Presbyterians feel like they were attending a "Catholic church."
But 125 years after 28 men wrote up a petition asking for the creation of a Presbyterian church in what was then called Purvis, theres one thing thats constant, Hoag said Jesus Christ.
"One hundred twenty-five years, during which change after change has occurred in the world and the church, but Jesus Christ is the same," Hoag told the congregation assembled in the simple wooden church, sitting in simple wooden pews. "The same Christ that said to Nicodemus that God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son . . . the same Christ is repeating those words to us today.
"The gospel has not changed," Hoag said. "Its still the same good news.
"Keep on celebrating how much he loves you, keep on sharing the good news."
The church that celebrated on Sunday was spreading the news of faithfulness and its power to sustain a people.
Deacon Kathy Fries said the history of the church can be told in the eight stained glass windows that serve as minutes of the structures past.
Each is dedicated to a person or people who helped shape the churchs life from a Philip Woolsey who donated the land on which the church was first built in 1880 at the cost of $2,300 and told the first sermons, to the Reverend Harlow, who served as the first call minister from 1883 to 1888.
Another notes the contributions of Dr. George Lathrop, once Purvis only physician and owner of the pharmacy a man with a big heart who served as a church trustee in the early days of the Livingston Manor presbytery.
The Reverend Walter Frey is remembered as the churchs second minister, a man who served from 1889 to 1893 and started the first young peoples society of the church.
Other windows recall Mary B. Johnston, Mildred Hull and the Ladies Aid a group organized in 1891 with the help of Woolseys wife Amy.
The 14 members of the Aid joined together to help support church projects, and they were instrumental in providing funding for the 1906 remodeling of the church that saw the entire building raised so a basement could be added underneath and electric lights and a furnace installed.
Later, in 1928, when the steeple was taken down and the front of the church remodeled, the ladies again came to the aid of the church.
Another window tells the sad tale of Kenneth R. Sherwood, who died in 1926 at just 17 years old.
The windows trace the history of the church as well as the history of Livingston Manor.
The same can be said of the church Hoags grandfather was 20 years old when it was built, and he grew up to be the man from whom many in the Manor bought their glass bottles of milk, the man who married many of todays residents grandparents and parents as justice of the peace.
And with Jesus Christ at the helm, Hoag said the church and the community will change, but some things will remain the same "yesterday, today and forever."