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Cause of UU church fire unknown

Rock Tavern congregation meeting in borrowed space.
By Donald E. Skinner

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Fire inspectors have been unable to determine a cause for the Sept. 12 fire that destroyed the two buildings of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation at Rock Tavern, N.Y.

Jim Bridges, minister of the 60-member congregation since 1998, said an inspector told him Oct. 30 there was no indication of arson and the cause of the fire would be declared inconclusive. An electrical malfunction had been considered as a possible cause, but the buildings were too burned to tell.

Bridges said more than $18,000 has been donated to the congregation by many Unitarian Universalist congregations and individuals. Two Roman Catholic parishes and a United Methodist church, which itself suffered a severe fire a few years ago, have made contributions. The congregation has also received its first insurance payment.

The congregation, which was first organized in 1868, is meeting at an Episcopal church until it can decide on plans for rebuilding or moving, said Bridges.

The congregation had two buildings, built in the 1960s, both in a modified A-frame or inverted parabola style and each one 30 by 40 feet in size. One structure was used exclusively for worship. The second building had a second floor in it and was used for religious education and for offices. The congregation has 12 to15 children enrolled in education programs. There was no one in the buildings when the fire occurred. A Montessori school uses the church during the week, but teachers and students had not yet arrived.

The early morning fire was well underway by the time firemen arrived, and they were unable to do more than contain it. The lack of a fire hydrant also hampered efforts.

Rock Tavern is 69 miles north of New York City and 19 miles from West Point.

Donations can be sent to the church treasurer, Glenn Davies, 44 Hudson Terrace, Marlboro, N.Y. 12542.

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