Minute By Minute, Westhampton Beach Church Raises Funds To Replace Clock

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The congregation of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Westhampton Beach is busy raising money to replace the clock that looks down upon the village from the white steeple at the corner of Potunk Lane and Main Street.

Though the clock has been repaired in the past, its hands have sat still for years, and its mechanical parts have been made obsolete by newer electronic models, according to Doug Graham, a member of the church’s elected governing board, called a vestry. He guessed that it is about 30 years old.

“It was kind of a beacon there for a number of years,” Mr. Graham, a Remsenburg resident, said on Monday, adding that it has been about six years since it kept the time. “Before that it was always kind of a center in the town because it was lit up.”

Jim McDermott, who helps oversee the church as one of its elected wardens, explained that there have been efforts to replace the clock in the past, but the estimated cost—about $5,500—has been a stumbling block. It’s not cost effective to repair it, he explained.

But during a recent vestry meeting, Jennifer Marwood, a warden, suggested a fundraising method that has so far sparked plenty of interest. The church is selling the 60 minutes on the clock at a cost of $92 per minute to raise the entire sum needed to purchase and install a new one.

The new clock will resemble the current one, Mr. Graham said, and will be purchased from the Verdin Company, a family owned business based in Cincinnati that has been repairing and installing clocks, carillons and bells in churches and towers since 1842.

As of earlier this week, the vestry only has about 25 minutes still available for purchase.

“Things are coming along,” Mr. McDermott said, adding that some community members who do not belong to the parish have also donated money. “That was very heartwarming for us that they would want to contribute.”

Mr. McDermott first attended the church as a child around 1958, attended intermittently as he grew older, and became an active member again with his wife, Judy, after his retirement in 2005. He said he thought the clock would be useful for residents and visitors traveling along Main Street in the village. “People tell me that they used to glance up at it,” he explained.

The church began in the late 19th century, when the Reverend Morgan Dix, from the Trinity Church in New York City, began holding services in what is now the United Methodist Church off Mill Road in the village. In 1924, the St. Mark’s Episcopal Church held its first official service at the Union Chapel, a village-owned building that used to sit off Library Avenue and, in 1928, the Reverend William Cumpston was appointed the first Priest in Charge.

In 1936, the congregation purchased land on North Beach Lane, where the rectory now sits. When the church outgrew the Union Chapel, the Atwater family donated the land at the corner of Main Street and Potunk Lane. The current chapel—including its steeple—was constructed there in 1948.

The Reverend Canon Thomas Orso is serving as the church’s interim pastor, replacing the Reverend Mark Powell. In September, a committee will begin a search for a new pastor, Mr. Graham said.

“When you think about it, our beautiful church and grounds are a focal point for all who enter and leave Westhampton Beach’s Main Street,” the members of the vestry wrote in a recent newsletter. “Since St. Mark’s presents such an attractive profile to so many people daily, it seems out of character that our clock can’t tell time.”

Anyone wishing to buy a minute, and help bring timeliness back to the corner of the village, is asked to hand-deliver a check to the church.

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