LOSING FAITH: Are Broome County churches becoming a thing of the past?

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BROOME COUNTY (WBNG) — Over the past decade, dozens of churches in Broome County have closed, been sold or forced to consolidate.

The county is home to more than 250 places of worship, some dating back to the 18th century. Broome County Historical Society member Roger Luther said 100 years ago, “We had this huge influx of European immigrants coming here for work… this area was just booming, and that’s why I think we have so many religious structures.”

Today, many of those old historic churches are struggling to survive.

For the High Street United Methodist Church in Binghamton, it’s too late. Former church Pastor Ben O’Connor said it is heartbreaking to have to close a church. “The traditional European churches they’re going to disappear probably,” O’Connor told 12 News.

Declining savings and growing repair costs forced the High Street United Methodist to shut down over the summer. It’s a problem many churches face, but money isn’t the only problem.

“Sunday is not the day that it used to be and that has to do with the fact that a lot of people don’t go to church anymore,” said O’Connor.

At St. Luke’s in Harpursville, not enough people coming to church is what led its church members to stop services in the 1960s.

Founded at the turn of the century and built in 1828, it’s the oldest church in Broome County still in use today. While it is now a museum, former church members come back one October Sunday each year to hold a service to celebrate St. Luke.

“I feel blessed to be a part of it. It’s been a lot of years trying to bring people back, not going to happen I’m afraid but when we have occasions such as this people do come,” said former church member Fran Bromley.

While she has lost faith in St. Luke’s becoming a church again, the yearly service offers hope that the church community can survive.

12 News teamed up with the Associated Press during the 2018 Election. In a poll of voters, more than half reported they either do not attend church or only attend a few times per year. 21 percent of voters attend at least once a week.

David Hermanovitch

David Hermanovitch

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