Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Developer Shalom Lamm offers $330,000 to buy church in Bloomingburg 

The builder of the controversial 396-home Hasidic development may soon be adding a venerable old church to the many buildings he owns in this eastern Sullivan county village. Shalom Lamm has offered $330,000 for the white-shingled, Mountainview United Methodist Church, which is more 150 years old.

"The church has been for sale for a long time as it continues to consolidate its finances," said Lamm. "We feel proud and privileged to help a faith community."

Lamm says he isn't sure what he will do with the church. He already owns at least a dozen homes, apartment complexes, storefronts and other buildings in this village of some 400 residents.

"But the idea would be to keep it for education," said Lamm, who plans to build a private girls' school, and at least one mikvah — a ritual purification bath — for the community.

The Rev. Pastor Robb Hewitt says "duly recognized" church members will be able to vote on the sale Feb. 27 — after three church hearings about it — and he explains the deal is necessary because the old church with stained glass windows is "no longer sustainable."

Between September and December, the church used 950 gallons of heating oil and now owes $7,500 — with $4,500 of that past due, according to a church resolution about the sale.

"The fact is, it's not just a sustainable reality, that we're going to be able to keep the church going for the next 100 years," says Hewitt, who says he's never met Lamm.

Opponents of the development who fear its residents will take over this one-stoplight community see the sale as another example of "a nightmare that never ends," says Judith Hosking, 61. She attended the church's Sunday school as a child and now opposes the sale, calling it "so sad."

But Hewitt stresses the proposed sale is part of a decade-long plan of consolidation of the Mountainview United Methodist Church group, which includes a church in Walker Valley and another in Pine Bush, which is also being sold.

So if the Bloomingburg church is sold, the congregation would meet in Walker Valley — just outside Pine Bush — for up to two years while it tries to build a new church in the area with many families from the Pine Bush School District.

"I understand the sadness," says Hewitt. "But we need to build a new church to serve the needs of the people of the Pine Bush School District."


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