Chapter 4

The United Church of Madrid

The new venture brought  Rev. Charles Maxfield to the area. He was a minister in the Congregational Church, originally from Fairhaven, MA.   A plan of union was sent to the NYS legislature and approved in 1974. Rev. Maxfield guided the church through some difficult times.  He also guided the church to a new building addition on the Congregational Church when it was decided to dispose of the upkeep and bills incurred on the old Methodist Church.  The old church was pulled down.  But before it was, the large window at the front entrance was taken out and brought down to be incorporated into the new addition.  The Good Shepherd window has become a source of pride for this church, celebrating the unity of the two churches. 

Rev. Maxfield was not without controversy however.  Citing a “lack flexibility, inability to deal with church structure, a lack of youth leadership qualities and a lack of pulpit ability;”[1]  a church vote was taken in 1976 to decide whether Rev. Maxfield would be retained or be dismissed.  The vote favored for Mr. Maxfield, who chose to leave Madrid shortly after.

After Rev. Maxfield’s departure, Rev. William Masters took over on a temporary basis. 

In 1977, the church welcomed the Rev. Betsye Mowry.  She, with her husband and three young children worked in Madrid until 1985.  Her big heart and personality will always be remembered.

For a short time after Rev. Mowry left, Rev. Cal Zimmer again stepped in for a few months in July 1985 until a new pastor was named in September of the same year.

In accordance with the new church’s bylaws a candidate from the United Church of Christ was chosen.  That pastor was Rev. Judith Persen.   Rev. Judy honored us with her presence from September of 1985 to July of 1990.  We watched her two children come of age and join the US Navy as musicians.

Frank Ewing, a local lay leader, served on an interim basis from July 1990 until June 1991.

Next on line was the Rev. John Vertigan.   In June 1991, he and his wife Sue came with their new daughter.  John was ordained while in Madrid and was a great asset to the community and congregation. After leaving Madrid in 1996, Rev. Vertigan has served as Conference Minister for the Indiana Kentucky Conference of the United Church of Christ.  He is currently serving as the Conference Minster for the Florida Conference of the United Church of Christ.

The Rev. Bill McFarland followed for a short time as an interim pastor while we again searched for a permanent one.  He was with us from July of 1996 until June 1997.

Rev. Eunice Tabor came to us in July of 1997.  While with us, Eunice was instrumental with the purchase new Hymnals, with a more modern repertoire.  We celebrated her ordination in Syracuse with the Childrens and Senior choirs singing for the event. Sadly, Eunice was transferred to Massena, in June of 2004.

The Rev. Janet Gibbs, a retired clergy member from the area, stood in the pulpit from July 2004 through June 2005.

Rev. Dr. Bonnie Bates came to Madrid in July of 2005 and was pastor until January of 2009 when she became pastor of the Faith United Church of Christ in Boston, NY.  She started the process of having the Congregational Church building nominated for the National Register.  She also celebrated the Bicentennial of the Congregational portion of our heritage in 2007. In November of 2010, the Church and Parsonage were named to both the State and National Registers of Historic Places.  Bonnie has in recent years served as an Associate for Congregational Vitality and Development for the Eastern Ohio and Western Reserve Associations of the United Church of Christ in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio.

The Rev. Janet Gibbs again served as our pastor for several months, while the congregation went through some soul-searching.  She and a lay leader, Martha Helmer held us in our decisions.  It was finally decided to employ a pastor at a three-quarter time rate.  This has meant that the congregation has had to step up and become more involved in the daily life of the church. 

The Rev. Helen Beck became the pastor starting July of 2009.  During her tenure, she also shepherded Waddington and Raymondville congregations, as well as leading a congregation in Louisville.  In the Fall of 2010 it was decided to restore the Good Shepherd window which had become a landmark for the people of Madrid.  By October of 2011 the $35,000 amount was collected and work was started by the Historical Restorations Foundation with Mr. Ed Dehors at its head.   On June 3, 2012 the church celebrated a trio of historic events, the first being the 175th anniversary of the Methodist congregation.  The second was the dedication of a plaque to indicate our acceptance on the National Register.  The third was the re-dedication of the Good Shepherd window.

In 2016, Pastor Helen was called to become the pastor of the Whiteface Community United Methodist Church in Wilmington, NY, only a short distance from her family’s cottage and now, permanent home.

The Rev. Richard Lenz served as Pastor from February of 2016 to June of 2019.  He was brought here from retirement and back into business only on a temporary basis.  It was decided early on in his stay, that his personality and good humor were for this congregation a perfect match.  And from his “temporary” assignment, he continued with us for three years. 

It is hoped that we have grown in these 200+ years.  From two strong and vital churches into one church, and that the lessons that we have learned will be carried on by generations to come.  And in our honor this church will survive the trials and tribulations of a world to come. 

[1] Advance News, Ogdensburg, NY,  SECTION TWO,  Sunday, August 29,1976, p. 11