Editor, The Spotlight;
I was sorry to read in the April 23 edition of The Spotlight that the familiar landmark church on the hill in Slingerlands will need to close its doors in June after 140 years of Christian fellowship, the victim of declining membership and ever-increasing expenses.
Many happy memories of mine remain, not only of active membership in the church and choir during the 1950s, but also remembering the site as the “birthplace” of the Slingerlands Community Players, a highly regarded amateur theater group, we thought the best in the Capital Region.
At that time, our pastor was a young minister from Harvard, Dwight Walsh. His vision was to create a community-style church, not a specific Methodist church. He also had a deep interest in live theater, which easily combined with similar interests among the congregation and others in the area, out of which the Players came into being.
For several years, productions were staged at the Slingerlands School, then moved to the existing junior high school, followed by some years at the Bethlehem High School. When the school found it could no longer guarantee non-school groups the use of the auditorium for the full week of shows, the Players created a simple theater in Unionville, long since disappeared, as have the Players.
Probably our best productions “hit the boards” during the ’60s and ’70s, usually directed with love and care by Ruth Wilbur of Delmar. The great strength of the group was the commitment of entire families to support each show.
Back to the church: Other well-remembered members included Dr. Tom Hale, always there when workers were needed, and the backbones of the choir, soloists Jack and Doris Clark, and fellow tenor Dr. Gene Horn.
I shall always be indebted to Dwight for two things: the best sermon I’ve ever heard in church based on the theme “Why do we come to church?” and substituting for me, “script in hand” when I lost my voice opening night of Arthur Miller’s “All My Sons.” He did a great job. (I was able to do the Saturday show.)
I’m not sure what happened to Dwight. I think he left the ministry and returned to Harvard to teach.
And in time, as families aged, the Players just “faded away,” but leaving some wonderful and fond memories.