Onondaga Congregation Leaves 136-Year-Old Church

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For Warren and Becky Noble, the Onondaga Community Church has been their life.

Both were baptized inside. They met each other there before getting married 40 years ago. And once they had children of their own, they too were baptized inside.

"There are so many memories: Christmas pageants and bake sales," said Becky Noble. "Things happened in that church that it's just sad to leave that all behind."

With tears in her eyes, Bible in hand, Noble walked out the front door of 5366 Main St., as she had done on more than 400 Sundays before, but this time for the last time.

She led a procession of church members through the streets of Onondaga, ending at the congregation's new house of worship, on the corner of Onondaga Rd. and Bellevue Rd.

"It was a happy time," she said of the procession. "We were all walking and talking and singing and so it was fun to see that transition from the old to the new. The important thing to remember is the church is the people not the building and that's why we're happy. The people came with us."

The pastor called it a "very special morning," the end of a long wait for a new space. Plans to replace the old church -- which has too many staircases to be handicap-accessible, among other complaints -- started in the late 90s. The church began to raise money for the $600,000 project in 2003. Construction workers broke ground last year, and now two of the three parts of the building are done.

"It's been a long process for this congregation; it's been a real long road for them," said David Wilson, construction manager and president of DAW Design Group. "It's a good feeling to have them finally in here and see their hard work and sacrifice come to fruition."

Members of the congregation say they hope they can use the new location to expand their ministry and become more involved in the community. Soccer and softball fields are possible additions.

But first the church must finish its sanctuary, which can be built once the old structure is sold.

The new church stands on land donated by Becky Noble's parents, who also attended the church.

"We knew the church would be scraping for every dime we could get to build the building, much less pay for land," she said. "It was a way of them donating to the church was donating to the land."

And though longtime members said it would be tough to leave the building that was part of so many memories, they said they were looking forward to creating new ones in a new place.

"This is a building," said Pastor William Muller. "The people are the church and we came together as a group and we have a real family atmosphere here in spite of the fact there are many families represented. This is my church family and everybody feels the same. We care about each other."

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