PORTHENRY-A century old church has rediscovered its calling.
The former Port Henry Methodist Church, built in 1872, is again a house of worship after nearly two decades as a restaurant.
The church, appropriately located at 6 Church St., is the new home of the Lake Champlain Bible Fellowship.
"We were looking for a place, a place in the middle of a community for our ministry," explained Pastor Tom Smith. "We wanted a church where people could walk in, where we were a part of the community. This is perfect."
While the Lake Champlain Bible Fellowship is new to Port Henry, it's not new. Affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention, the church started as Bible study group in Moriah 20 years ago under the direction of the Lake Placid Baptist Church. Membership grew. The church began holding services at the Mineville VFW five years ago and began looking for a permanent home.
"We purchased this building last October," Smith said. "We're in the process of renovations, but we're holding services."
It was also last October that Smith, who lives in jay, was installed as pastor. he's a retired Lake Placid school teacher.
About 60-70 people are attending services each Sunday at the Port Henry church, the pastor said. A fellowship period begins at 10 a.m. with worship at 10:30 every Sunday.
"We have young families, we have senior adults," Smith said of the congregation. "We have a nice mix of people."
The renovation work at the church is extensive. It started with a new roof and the removal of more than a ton of pigeon waste from the steeple.
"We had quite a mess," Smith said, "but we're making progress."
Upstairs is a sanctuary, with all new windows. Downstairs is a fellowship hall, kitchen, Sunday School\Nursery and office space.
The renovation work is expected to continue several more months, In fact, a mission team from North Carolina will be coming to Port Henry to work on the church in June. But while the work goes on, church activities continue. Besides weekly services, the church has hosted a Thanksgiving dinner that attracted 100 people. The pastor hopes to open a thrift shop and food pantry.
"When I look out these windows and see people walking by I see an opportunity for ministry," Smith said.
The Lake Champlain Bible Fellowship is committed to community service, Smith said.
"We're a very service-oriented church," he said. "We want to be involved in the community. We helped out last Labor Day (during Moriah's annual town celebration) and we provide school supplies to students in need. We want to participate in everything in the community."
The church has even constructed a shanty for ice fishing.
"We'll take our ministry wherever the people are," Smith smiled. "If it means catching a few smelt, that's what we'll do."
The pastor believes the way to salvation is through people.
"If you help people and families improve their circumstances you improve a community," he said. "We believe our church needs to be authentic and live out the example taught be Jesus. We want to take things from the Good Book to make a good life."
The Lake Champlain Bible Fellowship is now in the process of "constituting," which means it is breaking its relationship with the Lake Placid Baptist Church to become independent.
"We'll always be connected," Smith said of the Lake Placid relationship. "We have a great love and appreciation for what they've done for us."
For more information on the Lake Champlain Bible Fellowship people can call the church at 546-4200, call Smith at 524-1117 or go online at www.lcbible.org