Century-old Corning church bids current home farewell

St. Mary's Orthodox Church, 244 Sunset Drive in Corning, celebrated its centennial anniversary in 2014, but church leaders at that time admitted the aging edifice had a lot of issues and that the search was on for a new home.

Following three years of fundraising, construction is under way on a new church facility on Canada Road in the Town of Erwin.

After Sunday, the 40 to 45 regular church-goers won't have to deal with the old building's shortcomings, said the Rev. Daniel Mahler, St. Mary's pastor.

"The reasons (for moving) are quite simple. There are over 40 stairs to climb, there's no off-street parking and the building is getting older," Mahler said. "We could have thrown money into the building and renovated it, but we'd not be able to solve the off-street parking issue and the stairs."

St. Mary's Orthodox Church is a parish of the American Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Diocese of North America, and was founded and built by immigrants who came from villages along the base of the Carpathian Mountains in Eastern Europe.

The new 6,000-square-foot church building, which will cost about $750,000 to build, is under construction now, and the congregation hopes to move in by late summer or early fall, even as some of the work is still taking place, Mahler said.

In the meantime, church members made arrangements to hold services at Immaculate Heart of Mary Roman Catholic Church, 115 East High St. in Painted Post.

"We are most grateful to the administration of All Saints Parish of churches and the Diocese of Rochester for allowing us to use Immaculate Heart of Mary Church as our temporary home until we enter our new building," Mahler said. "It is another example of the great arm of brotherly love, cooperation and ecumenical outreach between our churches in the Corning area."

The old St. Mary's Orthodox Church building will not be vacant for long. 

The church sold the property in February and it will become the Itsy Bitsy Inspirational Preschool, Mahler said.

Some longtime church-goers may find Sunday's final service in the old building to be an emotional experience, but Mahler said there will be no special ceremony or recognition that the congregation is moving on.

"There will be sort of a last luncheon in the hall and that’s about it," he said. "The highlight of the move will come with the consecration of the new building on Canada Road."

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