Annunciation’s original church experiences rebirth as parish gathering place

Dating back to 1905, Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary Church has a long and celebrated history in the Town of Elma. The first church, built at the corner of Clinton Street and Girdle Road — continues to stand today, a testament to dedicated parishioners and early 20th century construction.

But when Annunciation’s current church was built across the street in 1971, the old church, now known as Langley Hall, began a slow decline due to lack of use and the high cost of maintenance and repairs. Eventually, the parish would face a choice that was anything but simple: Demolish the building or find a way to breathe new life into its aging body.

The original church, completed in 1907 at a cost of $9,546, is majestic both inside and out. Perhaps its most noticeable treasure is its impressive stained glass windows depicting St. Philip, St. Wendelin, St. John the Baptist, St. James, St. Isidore, St. Francis, The Good Shepherd, Mary Queen of Peace and other holy scenes. It was given the name Langley Hall in honor of Rev. T. Louis Langley, pastor of Annunciation from 1973 to 1988.

The parish, now under the leadership of Rev. Eugene Ulrich, made the recent decision to not only save the building but to once again give it a sense of purpose. But before it could once again become usable space, some major work needed to take place. The parish turned to its St. Joseph Workers — a dedicated group of retired volunteers with impressive construction and mechanical skills — for help.

“Upgrades included replacing the furnace and duct work, installing a large fan, upgrading inside lighting, installing outside lighting for safety and security, and a major overall cleanup,” said Deacon James Jaworski, pastoral associate-administration. “We are currently making plans for the restoration and protection of our stained glass windows.”

With much of the work complete, the main floor of Langley Hall is now being used as a meeting space for the young people of the parish, while the lower level houses a spacious workspace for the St. Joseph Workers.

“The ‘upstairs’ of Langley is used as a gathering space for high school youth ministry,” said Meghan Dandrea, associate director of Youth Faith Formation at Annunciation. “We’ve filled the space with couches, chairs and other furniture donated by parishioners. On Sundays we use the space for our high school faith formation program which begins with dinner and then consists of activities, teachings and discussion.

“Confirmation classes are also held in Langley. The space has been rearranged for a reconciliation service, art projects, group work, discussions, games and guest speakers. It is nice to have a flexible space that can be conformed to the needs of the program. We’ve hosted a coffeehouse and open mic night — we have a piano, instruments and a sound system set up — and a movie night in Langley, and we are always looking for new ways to use the space.”

Additionally, several diocesan meetings have been held and continue to be scheduled in Langley, and it has become a favored spot to meet within the diocese.

“Everyone loves the comfortable seating and living room feel, but there also exists a holiness to the space,” added Dandrea. “We’ve been intentional about keeping obvious reminders and homages to the original use of the building. The stained glass windows are important to establishing the atmosphere of the space and are really helpful when teaching about the saints! We’ve also retained and display a small altar and the processional cross to further root us to our Annunciation family. We still have some older pictures of the space, from when it was a church, to hang up.”

“We are extremely thankful for the support of the entire parish and the work of the St. Joseph Workers in saving Langley Hall,” said Father Ulrich. “We hope and pray that it will continue to be an important part of Annunciation parish and our community for generations to come.”

For more information on Annunciation Church, located at 7580 Clinton St., please visit www.annunciation.cc.

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