Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Badly damaged historic church will take at least two years to rebuild

Jefferson Avenue Seventh-day Adventist church
April Franklin/WXXI News
Some walls were still standing on Sunday after Saturday night's devastating fire at the Jefferson Avenue Seventh-day Adventist Church, but the building was gutted by the blaze.

Weeks after a fire severely damaged a 185-year-old church on Jefferson Avenue in Rochester, the congregation is still figuring out what comes next. The cause of the blaze, which injured one firefighter on Christmas Day, is still unknown.

Pastor Hanson Drysdale said that the Jefferson Avenue Seventh-day Adventist Church services are continuing via Zoom. The upside, he said, is reconnecting with many parishioners who moved away, mostly to warmer climates.

He said it's not the same, though, and he’s hopeful that in-person services will continue soon once the church brokers a deal for a temporary space. A time conflict with another church caused a deal for a space to fall through.

“We’re confident that God is leading us and he has something better in store than what we had,” said Drysdale. “We have to make concrete plans while being adaptable and flexible but we don’t want to be moving around.”

Drysdale said many members of the congregation took the fire hard. Some of them attended for decades. He said it’s the youngest ones who are having the hardest time.

“It’s the place where they connect with friends when they’re not at school. It’s the place where they can express themselves when they’re away from their families,” said Drysdale.

Between the extensive damage and expected wait time for their insurance claim, Drysdale said it’ll take least two years to either rebuild or replace the landmark. He’s concerned that the structural integrity of the building could be marred so much that it might not be possible to salvage. Ideally, he said they’d like to build on that same spot.

“We have to pick the right option as we move forward. But I really don't see us in a new building. earlier than that time. We are taking that time to ensure that we get it correct,” said Drysdale.

James Brown is a reporter with WXXI News. James previously spent a decade in marketing communications, while freelance writing for CITY Newspaper. While at CITY, his reporting focused primarily on arts and entertainment.