West Cummington Church ‘going home’

Last modified: Monday, December 03, 2012

Members of the West Cummington Congregational Church will be going home this Sunday to a brand-new “green” church on the same site where their 1839 church once stood. Following 150 Sundays of services at the Parish House after their former church burned to the ground Jan. 16, 2010, church members will have their first service in the new building on Sunday. Everyone is welcome.

The new church, built on the same 20-by-50 foot footprint, embodies everything that members said they liked about their old church, plus a little extra. It is built backwards, so that people in pews face the front door. The floor slopes up to the back, and maintains the quality of light as it moves across the floor during services. The acoustics are expected to be even better than they were.

“It is really hard to tell what made a room good acoustically if a room has burned down,” said the church’s minister, the Rev. Stephen Philbrick.

After referring to pictures, builders made the walls one and one half feet higher and installed an arched ceiling for better sound.

“It changed the whole feeling in the room,” said Philbrick. “The amount of air is great. It feels as though it’s lifting more. I think that we did pretty well with that.”

The sage-green cushions for the pews won’t be in until Christmas, and cushions absorb sound, so the sound may change.

In the meantime, Philbrick said, “What we do know is that the acoustics are extraordinarily sensitive. If you stand facing the wall and whisper, the person on the other side can hear you.”

Penny Schultz, musical director for the church, has been teaching “Amazing Grace” in three-part harmony for Sunday’s service.

“She’s our hero. She teaches us songs all the time that inspire us,” Philbrick said.

New features extras include insulation, energy-efficient windows left untinted to maintain the quality of light in the church, and two bathrooms.

“Before there was no water at all,” said Philbrick. “We jumped from the 19th to the 21st century.”

Rebuilding costs of about $860,000 were covered by insurance, fundraisers and donations from the congregation, townspeople and well-wishers.

The inside doors were made by Windsor’s Keith Tibbetts from rosy hemlock and knotty spruce beams salvaged from the fire.

A bell circa 1892, located by church building committee member Marc Hoechstetter, was installed in June. It will ring in its new home for the first time on 9:15 a.m. Sunday morning as members gather at the Parish House at 27 West Main St. to walk to the new church on Church Road.

After a rendition of “Amazing Grace,” the bell will ring again.

“It’s all going to come together on Sunday. People have been coming up to me, saying, ‘We’ve done it, we’re going home,’ ” Philbrick said.

Donations can be sent to West Cummington Church Rebuilding Fund, Florence Savings Bank, 85 Main St., Florence, MA 01060.


Centenarian feted

Plainfield’s oldest resident, Kathryn Metcalfe, was feted by 30 townspeople, friends and family on Nov. 15 at her Route 116 home, where she lives with her daughter Susan Larock.

The group gathered in her driveway, where long tables covered in pink tablecloths were loaded with cupcakes adorned with rosette frosting. “It was just grand. To be outside was just great,” said Metcalfe, known to friends and family as Kay.

She was given a large rectangular card signed by more than 40 people over the past month at the town’s Shaw Memorial Library.

“Everyone is amazed with me for being 100 years old,” Metcalfe said.

Longevity runs in her family. Her mother, Bess Dilger, lived to be 102. Her mother’s sister, Mae Meikle, lived to be 106. “She was a little person like me,” said Metcalfe, who stands a little over 5 feet and has perfectly coiffed white hair.

Laura Rodley can be reached at laurarodley@hotmail.com.


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