By Jennifer L. Warren
WEST POINT – It is the second Methodist Church and the first African-American Church in the City of Newburgh. It further carries the distinction of the oldest African-American Church in the Hudson Valley.
Saturday, its beauty and potent influence throughout the area for 190 years were celebrated at West Point’s Hotel Thayer. The joyful day’s theme, “Remembrance and Renewal: Celebrating the past, embracing the future,” was reflective of the ongoing mission of the iconic Church to make a positive, lasting impact in its community as well as beyond. A large crowd, among it many Church members, came out to pay tribute on a beautiful early spring afternoon to say “Thank you,” showing unwavering gratitude to a place that has had a lasting effect on their lives. One of those people was 38 year member, George Bowles, who has had a strong presence in the City of Newburgh’s politics and community over the years.
“Today I came here to celebrate this beautiful Church; it’s a place that has been around for a long, long time, and is a huge part of the community,” said Bowles. “It is a wonderful place that will continue to be here just as long as dedicated people continue to be involved with it as they are now.”
One of those individuals who has had a lasting impact on AME Zion Church of Newburgh over the years is Reverend William “Bill” Scafidi, the Honoree at Saturday’s Church Anniversary celebration. Scafidi, who was asked to be the Administrator of St. Mary’s Parish in Newburgh in May, 1996, also ministered the Bishop Dunn Memorial School faculty and youth as well as was asked to become Pastor of Sacred Heart in July, 2009. Possessing a passion for the City of Newburgh and its people, Scafidi cemented a strong bond with AME Zion Church years ago and continues to feel that connection today.
“I realize God places us where he wants to place us, and having this honor today is giving me a great incentive for what the community of Newburgh has done for me over the years,” said a grateful Scafidi, who was heavily involved in many City of Newburgh community organizations during his tenure there. “Since I left Newburgh two years ago, and now when I come back to visit, I see how very much it and its people have shaped me and been a part of my heart. He continued, “I’m truly humbled with this honor, as we enter into the holiest part of the year, I see this distinction as extra special, and truly thank you from the bottom of my heart.”
Dr. Valentina Stubbs was the Chairperson for the Anniversary event. “This is such a great milestone for the Church,” said Stubbs, the wife of Reverend Milton Stubbs of AME Zion Church of Newburgh. “I am honored and blessed to have been a part of such a great event and am so grateful it was a success; To God be the glory.”