St. Patrick's Day, Columbia County

Categories: Upstate Journal

The St. Patick's Day feast at St. Peter's in Spencertown, New York

As I drove down the meandering highways and country lanes of Columbia County -- just southeast of Albany, sandwiched between the Hudson River and the Massachusetts border -- I passed sign after sign advertising corned beef and cabbage. Every rickety roadside bar, rustic country inn, and white-spired church seemed to be advertising a saint's day feast.

St. Peter's Church, as seen in the gloaming

My pal and I picked one at a church in Spencertown, just southeast of Chatham. Hidden among rolling, heavily wooded hills, the town is arranged around a crossroads. Of the three churches, the only one that seemed to still be operating was St. Pete's. A plaque on the front of the white frame structure with a steeple that could be seen for miles said the house of worship was built in 1771, and remodeled once or twice before it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2002. The church is ringed with a horseshoe-shaped cemetery filled with 19th-century graves, mainly German, Dutch, and English.

I immediately assumed it was a Catholic Church, mainly on the basis of the sign outside that offered a St. Patrick's Day dinner of corned beef and cabbage, from 5 to 7 p.m. But when I peeked into the sanctuary, with its spare interior, total lack of religious art, white paint job, and cross behind the altar with no Jesus hanging from it, I realized that it was a Protestant church, and more specifically, a Presbyterian one.

The austere Protestant interior of St. Peter's

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