SALAMANCA — The former United Congregational Methodist Church on Broad Street may have a new name, but the building and the people inside it are still familiar to many.
After about a two-year process, the Riverside Chapel, now an independent non-denominational church, is the official name for what many in the Salamanca area know as the “yellow brick church” at 134 Broad St.
Jodi Scanlon, chair of the church board, said they felt it was time to go independent for several reasons, including feeling it would be better financially.
Part of the process included seven individual members of the church filing paperwork to an attorney to form the new church, Scanlon explained. She said they had to submit bylaws and list what the new church’s beliefs are before it became official.
“It has to go to an attorney and it has to go to a judge before you can be a church,” she said. “It took quite a long time for the process to go through.” The new name change had been finalized only a couple months ago.
Along with its new status as an independent church, the Riverside Chapel is led by its newest Pastor Clyde Eli Hall IV, known affectionately to his flock as Pastor Buck.
“They formed a new church while still under the umbrella of the United Methodist Congregational church,” he said. “One they established this church, it was a long process in the lawyer’s hands of separating from the United Methodist and Congregational.”
Buck, 47, has been with the church for a little less than a year, but said he’s enjoyed his role so far because of the people.
“There’s a lot of older folks here, and for me, the best way to describe it is seeing your grandma and grandpa,” he said. “You just love to be around them, and this church is filled with folks like that. You just love them, and they love you.”
Originally from the Nunda area in Livingston County, Buck didn’t grow up in a Christian family, but found his faith at about age 9 when attending church for the first time with his best friends.
“I was a young Christian living in a family of non-Christians,” he recalled. “The only spiritual sustenance I got was a youth group mid-week with my friends.”
Buck received a degree from Alfred State College in Building/Construction and started his own construction company at 22. Then, in his early 30s, Buck said he was called to service and went back to school at Houghton College in 2004, earning a degree in Ministry.
“I had no idea that I was going to become a pastor. In fact, I remember once thinking I could not do what he does, looking at the pastor,” he said. “But lo and behold, six or seven years later at age 31, I felt the call to ministry and I just went for it.”
In 2007, Buck accepted his first church assignment at Little Valley Wesleyan and was there for 10 years. Since that appointment ended in 2017, Buck said he had been working at Sixt Lumber until the opportunity to be pastor in Salamanca came about.
“I knew the pastor who was here as an interim, Mike Trenchard,” he said. “Just in conversation with him about what’s happening, I kept my ears open because I knew I was leaving the Wesleyan church and looking for what God would have me do next.”
MANY OF THE day-to-day operations of the church itself remain the same since the changes, with many of the same people involved and services offered.
“Stepping into the role here, I didn’t want to change too much,” Buck said. “As I continue on, I’m going to be here more often.”
One element that helped the Riverside Chapel’s transition was the church owns the building. Scanlon said the Methodist Conference often takes over the building and finances, but because it was combined with the Congregational church, as well as the building’s location on the Seneca Nation’s Allegany Territory, the local church was able to keep ownership of it.
Although now a non-denominational church, Buck said the services are still similar to many Protestant church and mostly in line with what many of them believe.
Looking to the future, Buck said their goal is to continue their mission of growing and inviting people into the faith. He said they have several community service projects done throughout the year to help the Salamanca area, including a yard sale, food drive, craft show and a park picnic.
“We have a good, solid base of people to work with,” he said. “We have a great facility. It’s large, it takes a lot of resources to maintain, but it’s beautiful.”
Buck said he hopes to see Riverside Chapel become an iconic church in Salamanca, known not only for its building but through a reputation of doing good work in the community.
“Right now it’s in the planning stages. It’s going to take some time to really get things rolling,” he said. Some of Buck’s ideas include a second service during an evening, a Bible study group and offering more music opportunities.
Buck is married with two adopted children and one step-child and lives in the Little Valley area.
For more information, call the church at 945-1075. Riverside Chapel is also working on a new website and social media accounts, which will be coming soon.
(Contact managing editor Kellen Quigley at firstname.lastname@example.org)