North Stonington church raising money to repair 175-year-old sanctuary ceiling
North Stonington ― The Congregational Church of North Stonington is raising money to fix problems with its ceiling that have made the sanctuary unusable.
Amy Foster, chair of deacons, said she noticed cracks in the ceiling about a year ago. Having gotten plasterwork done at her mother’s Victorian home, alarm bells went off ― especially considering it’s the 175-year-old building’s original ceiling.
Foster said she and Brian Hager, acting chairman of the church’s board of trustees, consulted with plastering expert John Marshall, and he advised them not to use the sanctuary. Since late last year, the church has held services in its Hewitt Hall, with folding chairs.
But the plan is to be back in the sanctuary by Christmas. Foster said they couldn’t find a suitable grant so the church borrowed from its endowment, which has to be paid back, hence the fundraising. She said being back in the sanctuary “is very important” because it’s part of the reason people who stopped attending services due to COVID-19 weren’t coming back.
Hager said it’s also important because the congregation is still celebrating its 300th anniversary: Worship began in 1721 in a meeting house about a mile away. The celebration includes a luncheon this Sunday, followed by music and skits.
Foster said the congregation has raised about $35,000 so far, out of a goal of $150,000. Some of this has come from a GoFundMe page and selling pies, and most recently, raffle tickets for one of Foster’s paintings.
Earlier this year, Foster raffled off a painting of sunflowers to help the people of Ukraine, and said it ended up raising over $1,200 that went to the Red Cross. When raffle tickets were for sale, the painting hung in Jake’s Restaurant in North Stonington, which is currently home to the painting Foster is raffling off to raise money for the church restoration.
Called “The view from the garden,” the 18-by-24-inch framed acrylic painting is of flowers with the church in the background. Tickets are $10 and are for sale at Jake’s, located at 220 Norwich-Westerly Road. The drawing was recently extended by a week, to Oct. 9.
A work in progress
The sanctuary now has scaffolding on its sides and plastic covering the pews, and the congregation took the organ apart as it waits to repair the plaster.
Hager said after contacting eight contractors that proposed a variety of methods to fix the problem, the church hired Torrington-based Valley Restoration.
The company had worked with the church years ago on its repainting project, Hager said. That involved sending out steeplejacks ― people who scale a steeple with harnesses ― which Hager said is much less expensive than using scaffolding.