By Tracy F. Seelye, Express editor
HANSON — The doors of fellowship are open wide again.
Members of the First Congregational Church, the community at-large and town officials gathered to celebrate the dedication of the church’s renovated front entrance Saturday, Sept. 13.
Selectmen Bill Scott, David Soper and Bruce Young, along with Police Chief Michael Miksch attended the ribbon cutting for the front doors as well as a short worship service before the congregation and guests moved outside for food, games, crafts, music and miniature train rides for the kids.
The front entrance had been closed for renovation last summer, according to church member Phil Clemons, because it became evident during work on the front stairs that they had to be replaced — and the foundation needed to be repaired.
“We found the sill was all rotted,” he said.
A couple of years ago, it was determined that those front steps were unsafe, according to church member Bob Cox in his welcoming remarks.
“This [work] was done with the cooperation of the congregation of this church — their faith, their support, their prayers created what you see here today,” he said.
After a series of fundraising work, a contractor was hired to install new granite steps.
“We got the old steps out and discovered that there was no sill on the front of the building … which kind of opened up a another problem and we had to close the building up,” Cox said. “We had to put the steps on hold.”
Clemons said the granite steps have inspired town officials to look into granite to replace crumbling concrete steps that are posing a safety hazard at Town Hall.
Duiring the church renovation, an engineer had to be found to dig a new foundation without touching the old foundation. The work took about a year.
“It’s as close to the orginal as possible,” Cox said of the result.
The main entrance’s side doors, dating back to 1836 and held together with wooden pegs instead of nails, were restored and all four doors were refinished. The “new” center doors date from the 1850s.
Ironically, the work had begun while the church was providing worship space to the First Baptist Church while that building was being renovated. FCC is also housing the Hanson Food Pantry during renovation of its new site at the former Plymouth County Hospital’s nurse’s quarters building, which had also been used by Plymouth County BCI.
“We’re looking for more people to help fill up the space, so today we said, ‘let’s invite everyone,’” Clemons said of Saturday’s event which was, in part, a celebration of how the church community aids its town.
Clemons led the gathering in a dedication prayer before youth member Miranda Campbell, interim Pastor Joy Matos and Trustee Harold Towne cut white ribbons in front of each set of doors.
“The way we open things up is the way we do everything — with prayer,” Clemons said.
After the ribbon-cutting ceremonies, the doors were thrown open for the congregation to enter as the steeple bell was tolled. Once inside, they took part in a 15-minute service of celebration and dedication, which included music by the praise band.
In the devotional reading, member Cindy Fish talked of how her eyes would always be drawn to “those beautiful old doors” whenever she stopped at the church to see how the renovation was coming along. It put her in mind of what the original craftsman must have been thinking as he built them, and she spoke of touching the doors as work neared completion.
“I was very pleased that a craftsman from my generation had restored these doors so lovingly, and with so much care, so that generations to come can walk through them and come into this beautiful sanctuary to worship,” she said.
Matos, in her brief sermon, reviewed how the highest elevation in Hanson was chosen for the site of the First Congregational Church and the church’s heritage before leading the congregation in the recitaition of the church covenant.
Following the service, in addition to food and fun for the children, tours of the church were provided and informational tables outside allowed church committees as well as the Hanson Food Pantry and Boy Scout Troop 34 to discuss their programs. The South Shore Worship Band also performed during the event.