Window renovation will shed light on historic black church

ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) – A historic black church is about to see the light.

Churches are known for their beautiful stained glass windows, and this historic black church has them too but you can’t see them from the outside.

A shining beacon of black history, the Israel African Methodist Episcopal church has served as a sacred space for nearly 200 years.

Lynn Canton has been a parishioner for 30.

“This is the oldest black church in upstate New York,” Canton said.

Founded as a place where African Americans could be free to worship, it’s withstood the test of time and remains a pillar of the community.

“It’s a place people come for solace, they come for communicating with the lord, but mostly for celebration.”

Soon the light found within the church will be visible from the outside. A $5,000 grant will replace the yellowed Plexiglass shielding the stained glass windows from the neighborhood.

“Looking at the building as though it were almost boarded up is a travesty when you can see from the inside how beautiful they are.”

Admiring them, Paul Stewart with the Underground Railroad History Project says this church was a station where people escaping enslavement found help.

“We’re talking about food, clothing, shelter, transportation assistance,” Stewart said.

The church seeing the likes of abolitionists Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman, a painting of past and progress tells their story.

“They’re kind of celebrating education and Albany, it’s a great mural in terms of talking about the march of history and the story of African Americans in Albany,” Stewart said.

A story that will continue to shine as renovations shed light on this historic church.

“As those windows reappear, I think the community will have the opportunity to see the vibrancy of this church,” Canton said.

This church was one of the 19 sacred sites that got funding through the landmark conservancy. The work on these windows should be complete in May.

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