BINGAHMTON, NY – An annual tour of local houses of worship is returning in a virtual form this year.

The 9th Sacred Sites Open House Tour will take place online this Sunday.

However, due to the ongoing pandemic, rather than visiting the 26 locations in person, participants will get a look inside through a virtual tour.

One of 2 new churches is First United Methodist Church in Endicott.

The church was built in 1919 at a cost of 89 thousand dollars, most of that money coming from Endicott-Johnson Shoe Company founder George F Johnson.

Johnson split his time between the Methodist Church in Endicott and Sarah Jane Johnson Memorial United

Methodist Church in Johnson City, which was named for his mother.

Church Council Chairman Bob Klingensmith says IBM Founder Thomas Watson was also a parishioner and that many of the church’s members worked at IBM.

“Normally, we would have 250 to 300 members here on a regular Sunday. We had a choir of 30 members. Unfortunately, once IBM pulled out, that went away. We are now struggling with less than 20 people supporting this building,” says Klingensmith.

When first constructed, the church included this stained glass window behind the altar depicting George F by the Susquehanna River surrounded by children.

The window was later moved in 1953 to a new memorial entrance to the church.

The Sacred Sites tour is organized by the Preservation Association of the Southern Tier.

Ron Borgna chairs the committee.

He says there will be a number of interesting stories and anecdotes about the different churches.
But he says the main draw is getting to look inside.

“They get a chance to see all of the architectural features, the carvings, the beamed ceilings, the icons, just everything that’s on the inside of these impressive buildings,” says Borgna.

The other new location is New Heights Ministry at the corner of Front and Riverside in Binghamton in what was once a Christian Science Church.

And it’s not just churches, as Temple Concord, built onto the Kilmer Mansion in Binghamton, and the Islamic Awareness Center on Conklin Avenue are also participating.

To watch, go to PASTNY.org and click on “Tours and Events.”

You can watch Klingensmith discuss the history of the church’s other stained glass windows below.