Conway church starts new chapter after 250 years

  • The Athol Congregational Church band performs during the celebration of United Congregational Church of Conway's 250th anniversary as a congregation Saturday afternoon at the Pumpkin Hollow Common in Conway, July 28, 2018. Recorder Staff/Melina Bourdeau

  • The Rev. Candice Ashenden speaks during the celebration at the Pumpkin Hollow Common in Conway on Saturday. Recorder Staff/Melina Bourdeau

  • Kate Burt sits with her children Mary and Wyatt while they eat ice cream during the celebration of United Congregational Church of Conway's 250th anniversary as a congregation Saturday afternoon at the Pumpkin Hollow Common in Conway, July 28, 2018. Recorder Staff/Melina Bourdeau

  • Lily Novak, left, and Mary Burt eat ice cream during the celebration of United Congregational Church of Conway's 250th anniversary as a congregation Saturday afternoon at the Pumpkin Hollow Common in Conway, July 28, 2018. Recorder Staff/Melina Bourdeau

  • John O'Rourke speaks during the celebration of United Congregational Church of Conway's 250th anniversary as a congregation Saturday afternoon at the Pumpkin Hollow Common in Conway, July 28, 2018. Recorder Staff/Melina Bourdeau

  • Lorraine Boyden, right, serves free ice cream for those gathered for the celebration of United Congregational Church of Conway's 250th anniversary as a congregation Saturday afternoon at the Pumpkin Hollow Common in Conway, July 28, 2018. Recorder Staff/Melina Bourdeau

Staff Writer
Published: 7/29/2018 10:27:07 PM

CONWAY — With ice cream and music by the Athol Congregation Church’s band, the United Congregational Church of Conway celebrated 250 years on Saturday, near the site where the original church was in 1768.

There was free ice cream available for people while they sat in lawn chairs listening to the music.

When the performance concluded, there was a brief program of speeches.

The Rev. Candi Ashenden said the congregation is starting its next quarter century the same way it started its first – with no building, in Pumpkin Hollow.

Following the tornado in February of last year, the church building will be demolished and a new one built.

Ashenden discussed the church building’s history as well as the history of the congregation tracing back to the Puritans.

“We started our quarter century about the same way they started in 1768. They grew to 400 members so we have a goal ahead of us,” said Ashenden.

After a collection of songs by the band, some speakers offered greetings and congratulations.

Kelly Gallagher gave some facts about historic moments happening at the same time that the church was established, such as the first circus and the creation of mustard, and the beginnings of the Revolutionary War.

“The world was sort of in an uproar and there was you. Do you think if they could see what was ahead of them, they would have believed it?” Gallagher said. “Change is nothing new to this church and you all are the living reality that we endure and we go on because there is something deep in our core that keeps us going that is far beyond all these things like cars and buildings and wars and struggles.”

While state Rep. Steve Kulik, D-Worthington, was unable to attend, he sent a letter to the church, which was read by parishioner Marcus McLaurin.

He sad he was proud such a strong group of people reside in his district and he looks forward to the church rebuilding process.

“I cannot wait to see this congregation led by the wonderful Rev. Candi rebuild and continue to contribute positivity and light to the community of Conway and beyond,” Kulik wrote.

Selectboard Chairman John O’Rourke said while the tornado might have damaged the building, the church will still go on.

“The tornado of February 17 may have dealt the final blow to the church building but it has not weakened the spirit of this congregation. It is a sad day because that beautiful edifice up on the hill will soon end its place as a very important symbol for Conway. However as beautiful as this building was, it is only a building.”

Along with the music played by the band, a song featuring alternative lyrics for “Hallelujah,” by Leonard Cohen written by Christi Ashenden was sung by Al Benjamin with the help of the crowd singing the chorus.

While there were some somber moments, O’Rourke said he wanted to remind the group of the silver lining.

“This is a day to start a new chapter in this history of the church a day to thank God of all the blessings the future holds,” O’Rourke said.


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