Interior work in progress at the Congregational Church of Plainville.
Photo by Eric Anderson
The Rev. Dr. Barry Cass speaks during groundbreaking ceremonies at the Somers Congregational United Church of Christ.
Photo by Tom Clough
This window at the Saugatuck Congregational Church in Westport will become the focal point of a new worship and music room when rebuilding begins.
January 2012 photo by Eric Anderson
by Eric Anderson
PLAINVILLE (10/01/2012) -- For friends and members of three Connecticut UCC churches, memories of 2011 will bear the burden of loss. During an eleven month period, the roof over the Congregational Church of Plainville's social hall collapsed; fire badly damaged meeting spaces of the Saugatuck church, and then a ferocious blaze claimed the 170-year-old meetinghouse of the church in Somers. Today, all three congregations are busy with the challenges of rebuilding: recapturing the grace and comfort of what had been, while creating spaces that meet new needs for ministry and mission.
Since heavy snow overwhelmed the roof over the Congregational Church of Plainville UCC's social hall on February 1, their rebuilding committee has worked diligently to negotiate the complexities of insurance claims, building codes, and evolving needs in the community. A roof and walls have risen, and interior work has begun on a space which pastor the Rev. Dr. Claire Bamberg says will be much more adaptable, welcoming, and comfortable for those using it. They have taken the opportunity as well to rework other parts of the interior, improving access to the building and dedicating a section for the use of twelve-step groups.
Though the Somers Congregational United Church of Christ was the last to suffer its terrible loss, it has moved very swiftly to rebuild its sanctuary. The congregation celebrated the formal groundbreaking on Sunday, September 23, and hope that they will worship in the new meetinghouse in September 2013. The project includes reconstruction of office and fellowship spaces which were also destroyed or damaged by the fire; pastor the Rev. Dr. Barry Cass praised the work of the architects and church leaders who have labored to make sure that what will come will both honor and improve over what had been lost.
At the Saugatuck Congregational Church UCC in Westport, congregation members and the town Architectural Review Board have approved the "envelope" plans for rebuilding the damaged sections of the structure. The church will actually add floor space for a new youth room and provide improved entrances both for the church's offices and for the nursery school area. The church staff and leaders currently meet and work in rented office space further down the Post Road, where pastor the Rev. Alison Buttrick-Patton joyfully displays the architects' drawings. Among the projected improvements is a multi-use music and chapel space where the choir room had been, using its graceful window to create a worshipful atmosphere for small gatherings.
In Westport, in Somers, and in Plainville, long hours and deep thought will leave their mark on architecture and on space, seeking to anticipate the ministries of tomorrow with the buildings of today.
The Rev. Eric S. Anderson is Minister of Communications and Technology for the Connecticut Conference UCC.