BETHLEHEM Police are investigating the break-in and vandalism of the former Community United Methodist Church in Slingerlands.
Dr. Peter Forman said the burglary was discovered last Friday afternoon, Jan. 23, as he went to inspect the building for renovations with the property’s real estate agent. Forman is attempting to purchase the building and turn it his new medical office and apartments. The town’s Zoning Board of Appeals approved the project earlier in that week.
“The damage was pretty extensive,” he said. “It wasn’t just someone who had gone in once. There was furniture damaged, with broken windows and doors hanging off hinges.”
Forman said none of the stain-glass windows were broken, which he plans to keep intact when transitioning the building to a medical office. He said the damage looked to be the work of teens, with graffiti in the sanctuary and school and a fire set in the middle of the auditorium floor. He claimed there were also items scattered around that looked like there could have been a party.
Rev. Stephen Butler, who spoke on behalf of the Upper New York Conference of the United Methodist Church, said there is strict protocol that is followed when Methodist Church is vacated. First, anything of value and important documents, like marriage and birth records, are removed from the building and given to the Conference for safekeeping. Then, the building is secured, and the locks are changed.
The Upper New York Conference of the United Methodist Church technically owns the building and is facilitating its sale. Butler said there are 12 trustees who oversee the churches statewide, and he is one of them.
“We’re not sure how someone gained access to the building, but it was not through negligence or inattention on our part,” said Butler. He explained the Upper New York Conference encompasses from Ravena to Binghamton and the Pennsylvania border, so there is a large area to oversee. They also work with a property manager, along with the real estate agent.