The United Church of Christ in Bayberry had its beginning in March 1959 when representatives of the Evangelical and Reformed and Congregational Churches met to plan the first United Church of Christ congregation in New York State. The congregation was to be located in the Bayberry section of Liverpool, a planned suburban community featuring parks, schools, shopping centers and three church locations. The Bayberry Community was only a few years old and was populated by young families.
At that time the two denominations were in the process of formal merger and this congregation was one specific instance of their cooperation. They purchased approximately four acres of land and a house that would serve as the parsonage, Christian education building, and sanctuary.
The Rev. Robert Adams came as the organizing pastor in June of 1960. The first worship service took place on September 11, 1960, in the basement of the parsonage, with 21 people in attendance. When the Congregational Church in Oriskany Falls closed, the Bayberry church received an organ, lectern, pulpit, altar pieces and hymnals. At the first Christmas Eve candlelight service, there were 100 people in attendance. The charter membership rolls were closed with 57 names.
History of the Building
The present Christian Education Wing of the building was completed in the spring of 1964. The cross displayed during the service in Philadelphia at which the Congregational Christian Churches and the Evangelical and the Reformed Churches joined to form the United Church of Christ was placed in the sanctuary by the New York Conference because Bayberry was the very first new church start for the United Church of Christ. This same cross is mounted on the wall behind the chancel area in the present sanctuary, which was completed in 1975. The lower level of the new sanctuary building was designed to house the UCC Nursery School, which has been an important service in the community of Bayberry since 1965. Students enrolling today have parents who attended the school when they were children.
The latest capital project was completed in 2004. The education wing was completely renovated and the fellowship hall and kitchen were both enlarged. A new wing includes space for offices, the music ministry, an updated nursery school facility, and a meeting room / library. The new wing freed up space in the original wing to accommodate the growing Sunday school.
History of Ministry
Since its beginning, UCC in Bayberry has served as a community center. In addition to operating a nursery school, the church building has served as the home of Scout troops, recreation groups from the Town of Clay, various support and recovery groups, as well as the Bayberry Community Association. The church building has also been a regular Town of Clay voting location.
During the 1980's, UCC in Bayberry was a pioneer with Liverpool High School in providing "time-out homes" for troubled teens, and also received national recognition for its "Garden of Eatin'," where vegetables were grown by church members and donated to area food pantries. Today, a community garden is maintained on the church property.
For a number of years, the congregation has provided a food ministry for needy families in the greater Liverpool area. In addition, UCC in Bayberry hosts a Nutrition Site that serves hot meals on a weekly basis for area seniors and cooperates with area public schools in providing assistance to families in need. UCC in Bayberry has also provided clergy and lay leadership for the Oneida Association and New York Conference of the United Church of Christ. The ecumenical beginning of the Bayberry UCC has been a continuing characteristic. The current congregation of approximately 400 is made up of people with roots in many different faith traditions but united in the church's mission of extending the love of God to the wider community.
Pastors serving the United Church of Christ in Bayberry
Rev. Robert Adams, 1960-65; Rev. Walter Tildesley (interim), 1965; Rev. William Goble 1966-1969; Rev. Walter Tildesley (interim), 1969; Rev. John Allen, 1970-1978; Rev. Charles Schmitz, 1978; Rev. Daniel Kuhn, 1979-1988; Rev. Jennifer von derLuft (Associate), 1985-1989; Rev. Michael Heath (interim), 1988-1989; Rev. Linda Heffley (interim), 1989; Rev. Phil Wiehe and Rev. Linda McFadden, 1989-1992; Rev. Graham Hodges (interim), 1992; Rev. Susan Schneider-Adams (interim), 1992-1995; Rev. Dr. J. Mark Lawson, 1995-2022; Rev. William Bartholomew (interim) 2022-present.