“You should conduct some research about Geneseo; you are spending the next four years there, after all.” My mom had a point. “Start anywhere… Start with the church!”
Although I felt researching facts about Geneseo may be a bit boring, I decided to do some good old twenty-first-century research online to please my mom. My Google search engine evolved quickly from “Geneseo churches” to “Geneseo Presbyterian Church facts” after a couple of clicks. I clicked on the first link available.
This is what I learned:
During May of 1810, American missionary Daniel Oliver began Presbyterian Church history in Geneseo when he organized a group of small Congregationalists as a new church. What started out as a plain, wooden structure on Temple Hill evolved into the church which residents of Geneseo worship in today. Along with the advancement in size of the building, the number of those who attended the church increased as well. Townspeople and migrants predominantly from European nations attended services and town meetings which were coordinated through the church. Today, Geneseo Presbyterian Church stands between Second and Center Street in Geneseo Village.
Built with red bricks, the mass welcomes churchgoers with sturdy, clean, white columns at the end of ten solid cement steps. A clean-cut lawn completes the polished and official establishment, which makes the building fit in amongst its fellow noteworthy local establishments: Wadsworth Library and Christian Community Church. Interrupting the vast greenness of the lawn is a garden with two small bushes covering the stakes, which hold up a newly edited sign every week.
A wave of nostalgia comes over me due to my couple-year absence in church. I flash back to the memory of taking public transit to get from my home in Queens to church in Manhattan as a child with my family. Along the way, I recall homeless people standing out, even amongst all the human traffic. To my young self, I couldn’t imagine anything worse than huddling in the cold cement street, begging strangers for food and money. Or maybe it was the level of discomfort I felt walking past them, knowing my family had money in our pockets soon to end up in the collection box, which made the homeless people so memorable. I also wondered how God was going to retrieve that money from the Heavens above. Usually late to church, my mom led me and my sisters to the first open row towards the back of the church, not wanting to attract attention by walking up front. Every Sunday, I had every intention of listening patiently to the pastor. It took about thirty minutes before my legs felt antsy. Then that restless feeling crept into every part of my body. I looked over to my mom, who was listening intently, as she’d been waiting for this sermon all week. Eventually, frustration kicked in and at every breath and pause the priest took, I hoped it was a nonverbal cue motioning he was done and we could leave. After what felt like eternity to a five year old, the service was over. I jumped up and instantly the frustration was replaced by happiness and excitement at the sight of other children in their Sunday church clothes… but not without the approval of my mom, who nodded her head and smiled. I ran over to the other children, wondering if my angst towards church would ever change. Looking back, I realize that my mom, a resident of America for just ten years, sought solace the way the migrants did years ago in Geneseo. It was then that I realized some things never change.
Dowon Hwang is a sophomore at SUNY Geneseo. When she’s not writing, she’s reading the news or running around the town of Geneseo.