SPOTLIGHT: Poco a Poco

5/22/2015

Stoneham Churches Work Together, Step by Step, to Renovate their Chapel

The address of the First Congregational Church in Stoneham may read 1 Church Street, but that location holds two churches.  The Spanish-speaking congregation of Iglesia Adventista (The Stoneham Spanish Seventh-Day Adventist® Church), uses the chapel -- as well as the sanctuary, classrooms and hall -- several times a week. 

When it became clear that the chapel was in need of refurbishment, a chapel renovation committee was formed by members from both congregations. Working together, with a very small budget, they managed to repair and paint the ceiling and walls, and put in a new wood/vinyl floor. In addition, they refurbished the altar, pulpit, and other wood surfaces, reframed and reglassed two beautiful pieces of member-crafted art, brought an historic clock back to life, and placed a donated electric organ in the back of the room. One of the members used her skills to make window and altar treatments.
 
As part of the conversion, they decided to make the facility more efficient by adding new LED lighting and investing in a heating/cooling unit to ensure the chapel was a comfortable place all year long. The Chapel LEDs were part of a complete facility LED installation project. MassSave estimates that the new lighting will save $4,000 a year in electricity costs, and significantly reduce their carbon footprint.
 
Stoneham church chapel refurbishmentAlthough you can follow the repairs on the church's Facebook page, "the real story is not about the renovation," said Wendy Vander Hart, Associate Conference Minister for the Massachusetts Conference.  "It is about the opportunity that brought together the existing congregation and nesting congregation." 

"I'm sure there are many more beautiful chapels, and many more exquisitely furnished, but we are very happy to bring life back to an old space that hadn't been updated for a long time," said Ben Jacques, project coordinator and member of the Board of Trustees.  "And I believe members of both our congregations have enjoyed working on this project, and getting to know each other."
 
Although Iglesia Adventista had been using the chapel before the renovations, the two have signed their first mutual agreement for lease of the facility. That action brings stability to both churches' planning efforts.  In addition, new indoor and outdoor signage for Iglesia Adventista is in the making.
 
"I picked up a nice phrase from Nydia Mendez, board chairperson of IglesiaAdventista," said Jacques. "Because we have worked on many projects, she said to me, 'poco a poco, llegamos a Roma' -- Step by step (literally little by little), we get to Rome."
 
"And I believe we, as the Congregational Church, have taken significant steps in recognizing and embracing our sister congregation," he continued. "It has helped us to become more welcoming and more multi-cultural. It has expanded both our worlds and cultures."
 
"What I love is the building of bridges," said Pastor Meredith Allen.  "We're establishing genuine relationships between our two congregations.  The members of the Iglesia Adventista are not merely renters of our beloved church but fellow travelers with us on the faith journey.  It's lovely to recognize folks and be able to greet them by name.  And some of us have even worked together on the physical labor of refurbishing the chapel.  It looks like a sacred space now, and that gives all of us joy.  Different languages, music, and Sabbaths simply enrich our appreciation of God's diversity."
 
The churches are planning a joint Chapel rededication service for Wednesday evening, June 10, at 7 p.m.
 
You can contact Ben Jacques or Pastor Reverend Meredith Allen at the church office at 781-438-0097 or email firstchurchstonehamma@gmail.com.


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