By Rich Place
In the true spirit of the East Concord Community Church and the close-knit hamlet where its located, when the more than 170-year-old church needed help a friendly neighbor came to the rescue.
The church, located on Route 240 near Genesee Road, was built in 1854 and continues to meet twice a month. But an aging roof installed in the early 1980s presented an obstacle for the small congregation.
“If we didn’t do the roof, we wouldn’t have a church,” said Susan Cranston Miller, who along with a handful of siblings and close friends has attended the church her entire life.
When the topic of getting a new roof was brought up at the church’s annual ice cream social in mid-July, word spread to Dave Filighera, a nearby neighbor who got married in the church.
Filighera, who works for Vacinek Plumbing, Heating & Roofing, not only offered to put a new roof on the building but offered to do it as a donation. He was joined last Friday by five other workers to install a new metal roof on the building.
“The church has done so much for us,” he said after finishing the job. “I was just in a good position that I was able to do that for them, and I’m glad to do it. It’s been part of my family and it’s been part of East Concord for a long time.”
Filighera said the materials were acquired from Bill Heim at House of Steel, who was able to help Filighera by providing the steel at-cost.
A handful of the congregants — including three sisters and two other nearby neighbors who have all called the church home their entire lives — witnessed the work on Friday.
“We had the ice cream social and said we really need to raise money for the roof,” explained Marilyn Cranston Farr, another longtime church member. “We put a donation jar saying we need to put a new roof on, and some people donated. We also had a little Chinese auction to help raise money.”
Now the money that was raised can be used for some other projects at the church, including helping to pay for the removal of trees on the property last week and, sometime in the near future, work on the church’s aging windows.
“We have a lot of work to do to keep it going, but the roof was the saver,” said Marilyn.
She said it’s been a “labor of love” to keep the small community church open. It had closed for some time in the 1970s before reopening in the early 1980s.
“The church was closed for a while and a bunch of us got together and decided to open it back up again,” said Marilyn, “and the first thing we needed was the roof, just like now.”
And similar to this past week, members of the East Concord community came to help.
“Back then we had just volunteers including Rudy Ingel, whose father at Shamel Milling donated all the singles to the roof back then,” explained Susan.
The band of sisters, along with some neighbors, have kept the church doors open since that time. A regular Sunday evening service — held on the second and fourth Sundays of the month — brings in about two dozen people.
That’s less than at other points in its history, including when the church used to offer five Sunday School classes at one point, Marilyn said. But that doesn’t matter, as the church’s rich history and close-knit family atmosphere — especially amongst close family and neighbors — keeps the doors open.
“This is an emotional attachment,” said Marilyn. Their mother used to play piano at the church and several funerals for family members have been held there, too. “It’s just part of our whole heritage and it’s important to keep it going.”
The group of ladies who gathered to watch the new roof be installed all agreed that although the congregation is small on usual Sundays, it’s tough to find a seat during a wedding, funeral or during the Christmas Eve service.
And the church’s Ice Cream Social, an annual event that has stretched decades, is a popular happening for the church as well. This year’s event help spur the installation of the roof and get the conversation going about other work needed there.
Church services, which are now led by Rev. David Bevington who is also pastor at Riceville Community Church in West Valley, are held on the second and fourth Sundays of the month at 6:30 p.m.
“We would love anybody to come to our church,” said Marilyn.“We have a wonderful congregation even though it’s small.”
In a building that has withstood the test of time, worshipers can continue to congregate inside the historic structure now under a new roof courtesy of a friendly neighbor.