2012-06-27 / Front Page

Love Thy Neighbor? Not so Much

Church sign at issue in Nelsonville
By Annie Chesnut

This sign, belonging to the Church on the Hill, was moved to the wall from its sidewalk location. 
Tim Greco This sign, belonging to the Church on the Hill, was moved to the wall from its sidewalk location. Tim Greco The Church on the Hill is a historic house of worship in Nelsonville. Just over two years ago, in an article called, “Will the Chimes Go Silent?” (pcnr.com Archives, 6/2/10) the PCN&R described the dire straits that the now 178-yearold church had fallen into.

Owing to dwindling membership and lack of funds, the church was facing the real possibility of closing forever.

But as a result of that call for support, anonymous donors, new parishioners, and an evangelical pastor named Tim Greco (whose wife Beth, also a minister, is a director at The Walter Hoving Home, in Garrison) took on the task of resuscitating the dying institution.

Two years later, the Church on the Hill is holding Sunday services with as many as 40 people and Greco recently baptized 30 people in one day.

One of Greco’s innovations has been a “sandwich board” approach to evangelism: using a portable sign on the sidewalk to remind passersby of all the church has to offer and to point out that there is a church on the hill, one you might not notice at first glance.

There’s a new message every week or so: ATM Inside: Atonement, Truth, Mercy; Our Sundays are better than Baskin-Robbins; Love Your Enemies-It Messes with Their Minds; When Life Stinks, We Have a Pew for You; CH_ _ CH - What’s Missing?

Greco recently became aware that Nelsonville Building inspector George Duncan had called up a former church member to say he wanted the sign removed.

Greco was going to church when he noticed the sign had been removed from its usual place near the curb, and placed on the high stone wall that separates the raised property from the sidewalk below. Later, while in service he got a message on his cell phone from Duncan to “take it off Main Street,” adding that if he wanted to keep it he would have to apply for a building permit.

Greco said he has since received many calls about the sign being removed—all of them against its removal.

“We want to be good neighbors,” the pastor said. “I left a few messages for Mr. Duncan asking for him to put his request in writing, to no avail.” He added that he would take no further action, and would permanently remove the sign

Greco also said the church would soon try to raise funds from the public for a permanent sign so he could continue with his messages. “Times are hard for many people; it would have to be divine intervention to replace our old sign.”

In addition, the church chimes have been marking the hour every day from the hours of 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. for as long as anyone can remember. They can be heard around the neighborhood and serve as a sort of small-town reminder to most people. For instance, if you’re still in Philipstown Town Hall when the last chime of the day rings, you know it’s time for that board meeting to end.

But recently, there have been complaints about the chimes from a neighbor who has had somewhat of a running dialogue with Greco and others about the “noise.” The church has already lowered the volume of the electronically controlled chimes, but the neighbor has also had concerns about the nature of the hymns itself. Greco said, “We try to live in peace with our neighbors as much as possible but you can’t please everyone.”

“It’s sad,” he added, “to see a Philipstown tradition under attack. The church has been at this address since 1831, and when you move next to a church, you get the chimes.”

Editor’s Note: The Rev. Tim Greco is a reporter for this newspaper.

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