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Communities struggle to find new uses for old churches

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copyright the Chronicle September 14, 2016

by Tena Starr

One of Vermont’s iconic images is the steepled white church that’s at the center of so many villages. But with the number of people who attend services dwindling to near extinction in some cases, the remnants of those congregations are looking at what to do with their gracious old church buildings. Somehow, most of them have been maintained, if lightly used, but that’s getting harder, too.

The First Congregational Church of Westfield stopped having services maybe ten years ago when the handful of remaining churchgoers found the meager pay for a weekly pastor prohibitive. Services there were revived in May with a new pastor, John Klar of Irasburg.

And for the past two years or so Katherine Sims of Lowell and her husband, Jeff Fellinger, have hosted a summer monthly concert series at the building, where once women made enormous batches of pies and sold them as a fund-raiser for the church, where years ago people of all ages attended lively card parties in the basement. The proceeds from the concert series go towards church repairs and maintenance.

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