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State Grant Allows Historic African-American Church to Further Its Mission

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August 2, 2023

By Jude Firpo-Cappiello–

The Shiloh Baptist Church, located on North Washington Street in Tarrytown, recently received a $12,000 grant through the Sacred Sites Program of the New York Landmarks Conservancy, a private,not-for-profit group. The funds will allow the church, which is one of the oldest historically black churches in the Hudson Valley, to complete repairs to the exterior of the building.

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Originally constructed as an opera house in 1884 by Henry T. Smith, owner of a local newspaper, the Tarrytown Herald, the building was sold in 1890 to the Shiloh congregation. Today, the church is led by Reverend Judith R. Williams, who succeeded Donna Lyn Smith-Taylor, the first female pastor of the Church. Williams was originally ordained as the church’s first female Deacon.

The Sacred Sites Program , which awarded the grant, is 37 years old, created specifically to help restore religious institution landmarks. Over nearly four decades, the program has awarded over 1,600 grants to religious institutions across the state. According to Colleen Heemeyer, deputy director of the Sacred Sites Program, an important part of evaluating grantees is how many people are served by the congregation; community-wise and culturally. “If a congregation’s building has a failing roof, or is structurally unsound,” says Heemeyer, “then it cannot serve its community. By offering these grants, we can help serve communities throughout New York State.”

Now, Shiloh Baptist Church partners with the Gullotta House, a community-aid organization based in Westchester County that offers help to residents facing hardships. With Gullotta House, Shiloh Baptist Church contributed to a feeding program, which recently helped serve over 450 meals for community members in need at Thanksgiving. In the future, Shiloh Baptist Church wants to offer services, such as a thrift-store, exercise classes, and after-school tutoring. These programs will hopefully begin after the repairs on the church are completed. The congregation hopes to reach around 550 people outside of its membership through these new services.

The church now operates with approximately 60 parishioners, aided by a following on Facebook and YouTube. “Shiloh Baptist Church has long been a place of Worship that many in the community call home,” says Reverend Williams. “We are not only a place of Worship; it’s our goal to serve as a beacon of hope and a place to provide community services.”

Reverend Williams anticipates that completion of the various projects “will take some time, perhaps well into 2025. “There’s a wonderful Chinese quote that says, “Don’t Be Afraid of Growing Slowly,” she observes. “Be Afraid of Standing Still.’”

More information about the church can be found at: ShilohBCTarrytown.org

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