CHATHAM – A crowd gathered Sunday morning on the front lawn of the First United Methodist Church to witness the rededication of the facade of the historic downtown building.
Pastor Barbara Kszystyniak blessed and dedicated the newly renovated front of the building “to the glory of God, the people of Chatham and people of faith.”
The crowning achievement of a multi-year restoration, renovation and preservation project, most of the work on the exterior of the building was paid for with $226,000 from the town's community preservation fund. Over a 13-year period, the church spent more than $1 million on various projects to preserve the historic building.
The most recent work was completed last fall and winter by Cape Associates and included new siding, preservation of historic stained glass windows donated to the church by Eldredge Public Library founder Marcellus Eldredge in 1898, and a new main entrance, replacing doors that often could not be used because they did not close properly.
Church Board of Trustees and building committee member Alan Kuzirian praised Cape Associates for their efforts, noting that at the beginning of the project, nobody was quite sure what to expect when the old vinyl siding was removed. It was replaced by cement clapboards which will protect the historic building for many years to come, he noted.
“It won't rot,” he said. “We won't have to do this again.”
He thanked town boards that approved the project – including the historical commission, which declared the building “historically significant” to pave the way for community preservation committee approval of the funding on the basis of the building's importance to the town's historic streetscape – as well as the people of Chatham for “recognizing the value of this building and what it represents to the town itself.”
Kszystyniak also recognized other members of the building committee who helped shepherd the project, including Lynn Long, clerk of the works Myron Kellberg and former Pastor Nancy Bischoff, who was present for the rededication.
After Sunday's regular service, church members sang hymns and recited prayers rededicating the structure.
“We present this building,” the crowd said, “to be rededicated for the worship of God and the service of all people.”
Built in 1849, the United Methodist Church was the first church to be constructed in downtown Chatham. It is perhaps best known for the clock that resides in the steeple. Installed in 1892, it is owned by the town, which has a small maintenance fund for its upkeep, while its regular operating costs are covered by the church. In 2011 lighting was added to the clock thanks to a memorial gift from the family of Dick Lumpkin.
“Everyone who looks at the front of the church will be reminded of the heritage, dedication and faith of our ancestors,” said Kszystyniak said Sunday.