New Milford church’s roof project moves forward
NEW MILFORD — An updated report has reassessed the status of the First Congregational Church’s meetinghouse roof, which has been supported by a temporary steel structure. A new structural beam must be inserted into the ceiling above the temporary structure.
The church has for several years been raising funds to repair the failing ceiling beam, restore the building’s structural integrity and remove the temporary steel supports inside the historic meetinghouse. The congregation is seeking grants to support the necessary repairs.
“We have a lot of renewed energy to get this done,” said the Rev. Shannon Wall, acting pastor. “The team has pulled together and is determined to get this done this year.”
In 2012, as lightbulbs in the chandeliers were being changed in the sanctuary, a dip in the ceiling was discovered, a result of a sagging beam in the attic.
The discovery forced the closure of the sanctuary in October of that year, and a structural engineer was hired to assess and make temporary repairs to support beams until funds could be raised to completely repair the roof.
The project was expected to cost about $400,000, based on the proposed solution: jacking and repair of the truss’ failed components.
The latest engineering design, however, calls for a different installation approach to avoid additional damage to the plaster ceiling, Wall said. The latest estimate was not immediately available.
Wall said if the church receives the state grant, work could start as early as the summer.
To date, $405,000 has been donated to the roof campaign, which is phase one of several church projects.
“There’s excitement building now,” said Barbara McGiver, a parishioner and capital campaign committee member. McGiver said officials are applying for a $100,000 grant through State Historic Preservation Office, as well as seeking other grant opportunities.
“The current preservation of the church is one of safety and stability of the truss/trusses that support the roof,” Robert Burkhart, president of the New Milford Trust for Historic Preservation, wrote in a letter of support for the grant. “We are currently supporting the needs of the church.”
State Rep. Bill Buckbee wrote a letter in support of the church, calling the church an “historic staple to our town and it should receive the attention it so desperately needs.”
McGiver praised a church family that launched a fundraising challenge in January. If the congregation can raise $40,000, the family will provide matching funds.
To date, the church has raised nearly $38,000.
Other fundraisers are planned. A craft fair will be held May 11, with funds to benefit the campaign.
In his letter of support for the church, the Rev. Jack Gilpin, rector at St. John’s Episcopal Church on the Green, cited the ways the church contributes to the town, including its work with the New Milford Homeless Shelter Coalition, its leadership with the town’s Santa Fund and volunteer efforts at Loaves & Fishes Hospitality House.
“Over the years, we have appreciated being the benefactors of the devoted efforts of (the church) with donations of food, diapers, school supplies, clothing and holiday gifts for children,” said Ivana Butera, director of New Milford Social Services. “By supporting the First Congregational Church of New Milford, we support a partnership of care for those most vulnerable in our community.”
Wall said they’ve received great feedback for the project, “which reinforces how important the church and its mission activities are” in the community.
For information about fundraising efforts, or to make a donation, call 860-354-8232.