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Trinity AME Church

State assemblyman Mike Fitzpatrick with Rev. Myrel Bailey-Walton of Trinity African Methodist Episcopal Church in Smithtown. Photo from Facebook.

Pastoring a historic church with a small congregation needs confidence and faith — two qualities the reverend of Trinity African Methodist Episcopal Church at 229 New York Ave. in Smithtown naturally possesses.

The Rev. Myrel Bailey-Walton has been ensuring Trinity carries on since AME Bishop Richard Franklin Norris appointed her pastor five and a half years ago. While the church currently only has a handful of active congregants, the reverend isn’t worried.

“Numbers aren’t important,” Bailey-Walton said. “We make sure doors are open for anyone that needs us.”

She said during services and events, Smithtown residents and members of other AME churches, including Bethel AME Church in Setauket, will join Trinity’s regulars.

“We always have people stop by to see what’s going on and get involved,” Bailey-Walton said. “The neighbors around us are active as far as stopping by to see what’s going on and just letting us know that they’re there for us if we need them.”

Her motto is even if it’s one [person] she has service.”

— Marlyn Leonard

Marlyn Leonard, wife of the Rev. Gregory Leonard of Bethel AME Church, said she has attended services at Trinity. Also, Bailey-Walton preaches at the Setauket church the third Sunday of every month.

“Her motto is even if it’s one [person] she has service,” Leonard said.

Leonard said the reverend’s sermons are phenomenal, and she recommends that churchgoers stop by Trinity to see Bailey-Walton in action.

“She’s happy all the time,” she said. “When you see her, she greets with a smile and a hug. That’s who she is.”

Bailey-Walton said Trinity AME celebrated its 107th anniversary in November.

“I feel that we’re significant in Smithtown,” she said. “We’re the only African-American church — even though we embrace all the community — but still it’s historical.”

The property was once the meeting spot for freed slaves in the town who would gather regularly on the property and, in 1910, their descendants built a church on the land, according to “Smithtown, New York, 1660-1929: Looking Back Through the Lens” by Noel Gish. In 1931, the AME Church of Smithtown bought the structure for a dollar from Isadora Smith.

State Assemblyman Michael Fitzpatrick (R-St. James) said he remembers playing basketball as a teenager in Brady Park across from the church on Sunday mornings and seeing people dressed in their finest attire. For him, recognizing the historical importance of the church is important. Fitzpatrick is reaching out to representatives of Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) to see if the church can receive recognition from the state’s Historic Preservation Office and possible financial assistance.

We’re the only African-American church — even though we embrace all the community — but still it’s historical.”

— Rev. Myrel Bailey-Walton

Bailey-Walton said she balances her responsibilities as pastor with working full time and spending time with her husband, Leland, and 1-year-old child. To spread the word about the church, the reverend regularly posts on social media and the internet.

The reverend and Trinity’s congregation plan a variety of events through the year, including the church’s anniversary gala in November, an open house for the community and a Women’s Day event.

Leonard said Bailey-Walton juggles her responsibilities with grace and elegance.

“She answers her calling very well,” she said. “I can’t say enough about her. Since I’ve known her, she just grasps everything in a bundle, and what needs to be done, she gets it done by the grace of God.”

Leonard said in addition to working with her congregation, Bailey-Walton is always there to help with people outside of her community, especially when it comes to children or wherever there is a need by
participating in volunteer efforts.

“She’s a role model not only for God’s house but also for the community and others,” Leonard said.

Fitzpatrick said Bailey-Walton has been working with groups such as the Boys Scouts and Royal Rangers from Smithtown Gospel Tabernacle to complete projects at the church and grounds. Work that he said is significant due to the church’s historical importance. The assemblyman believes Bailey-Walton is a perfect fit for the church and is confident in her leadership abilities.

“She is a dynamo, she really is,” he said. “She is very committed. She knows God has her back, and she’s going to do her very best to keep this church alive. Any recognition of her is well deserved.”

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Smithtown’s Landing Methodist Church. File photo

Nine churches will take part in the Smithtown Church History Day to honor and celebrate the town’s 350th anniversary.

Sunday, May 17, has been the designated day for residents to learn about other religions and discover the similarities between faiths. The churches will open their doors to interested parties for tours and historic activities.

The Resurrection Byzantine Catholic Church on Edgewater Avenue is welcoming visitors to its regularly scheduled Sunday Divine Liturgy at 11:15 a.m. followed by an open house and guided tours between 1 and 5 p.m.

The Smithtown United Methodist Church on Middle Country Road will open from 12:30 to 3:30 p.m. for tours and additional activities. Members will also be serving light refreshments.

St. Thomas of Canterbury Episcopal Church on Brooksite Drive will also open its doors to the public for its 8 and 10 a.m. services with coffee following each one.

Between noon and 2 p.m. volunteers will be there to hand out brochures and give tours of the church and garden. There will also be a demonstration of how to use the Meditation Labyrinth.

For residents who would like to see Smithtown’s oldest church, they can visit Smithtown First Presbyterian founded by Richard Smythe in 1675, located at the corner of Middle Country Road and North Country Road.

Starting at 1 p.m. DVDs on the church and its history will be shown in the Narthex along with light refreshments available in the Parish Hall. Family activities will take place on the church lawn throughout the afternoon. Several other events will take place throughout the day.

Both St. James United Methodist located on Moriches Road and Trinity AME Church located on New York Avenue are inviting the community to come and learn about their respective history.

St. James United Methodist is inviting people to come see the interior of the church that was rebuilt in 1899 after being destroyed by a fire. Members are also inviting people to take a look at the popular stained glass windows. Trinity AME Church will serve refreshments and invites the community to join them for a meet and greet.

The Smithtown Landing Methodist Church on Landing Avenue is offering open tours from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Members of the Ladies Auxiliary will be on hand to present the history and background of the church. There will also be information on the founding members of the church who are buried in the little cemetery on the grounds.

The Hauppauge United Methodist Church on Townline Road will also be participating in the big day. The church will open for services at 9 a.m. when all are welcome. Between 2 and 3 p.m. there will be church tours followed by a tour of the old Hauppauge burial grounds behind the church with graves dating back to the Revolutionary War.

The last church that will participate in the festivities is St. James Episcopal Church on North Country Road. Worship services will be held at 8 and 9:30 a.m. followed by an open house from noon to 4 p.m. Guided tours to see the church will be available throughout the day as well as guided tours of the cemetery.  A picnic lunch featuring hot dogs, apple pie and other goodies will be available as well.