I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of an historic church, even from childhood. My home congregation had been founded shortly after the Civil War (and for the record, they were on the wrong side of that war). The church was established by the circuit-riding Methodist minister who founded the town and was its namesake. Our sanctuary was among the older buildings in town, having been completed a few years prior to the Great Depression. I was aware that we had played an important part of the history of the city. It was there I came to understand the responsibility a congregation has to be an active presence in and for its community.
I was still in high school when I figured out that the oldest congregations in our country were either Congregational churches in New England or Roman Catholic mission churches in the desert southwest. In seminary, when I discerned a call to ministry in the United Church of Christ, my fascination with historic churches lead me to apply to a number of New England Congregations for my first full-time, post ordination ministry setting. While I landed a handful of interviews here, my first call ended up being to a congregation in Detroit. In subsequent search process I always applied to historic churches in New England. But by God’s own timing, I wasn’t led to live and serve in New England until I accepted your call to First Church Congregational in Methuen.
From my first interaction with the Search Committee of First Church, I was intrigued by the role this congregation historically has played in the Methuen community. I was excited for the opportunity to work with you to find ongoing, renewed and new ways of serving here. That has certainly been part of our focus in our 3½ years together thus far. I’m excited to see what the future will hold.
From those earliest moments, I also have been excited for the preservation and restoration of our beautiful and historic church buildings. In constructing our stone sanctuary in the 1850s, our ancestors set us apart from many of our sister churches in the area. Adding Phillips Chapel and later the apse with the priceless LaFarge window, both near the end of the 19th century, we took on responsibility to be good stewards of significant, expensive to maintain properties for generations to come, both on behalf of our congregation and our community at large.
We stand at a crucial moment in our history. Our buildings are old and in need of significant repair. While the list of things to be addressed is long, our most urgent matter before us at present is the replacement of the sanctuary roof. The Church Board has authorized the expenditure of up to $65,000 to install a new, heavy-duty, long-lasting roof over the sanctuary. The new roof will be composed of asphalt shingles that will look like slate from the street. Ice barriers, new flashing and the repair of masonry along the edges of the roof are all included in the price of the project.
The request for donations to the roof was made to the congregation near the end of October. Already funds and pledges for funds have been received for this project, but we still have a long way to go to meet the total expense for the new roof. For the financial health of the congregation to be maintained, it is essential that we raise the full amount to replace the roof as soon as possible. Your generosity is both needed and appreciated! If you have any questions or wish to make a pledge to pay for the roof, please speak with Steve Boyko, Chair of the Board, or with me. Of course, gifts to the roof fund can be placed in an offering plate, mailed to the church, or paid through the GivePlus app on your smart phone.
Simultaneous to our fundraising efforts to replace the roof, our 2020 Stewardship Campaign gets underway this month. You can read about that in this issue of The Beacon, and also should have received materials from the church in the mail. Our faithful ministry within our church and across the community is made possible through the support we receive from our members and friends. Thank you for everything you do to make our ongoing presence in this community possible, for today, and for generations to come.
See you in church…