The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, January 15, 1999


Carlisle Congregational Church plans expansion

A decade of church-building activity in Carlisle came full circle on January 4. That evening at an invitational meeting at their facility, spokespersons for the Carlisle Congregational Church told School Street neighbors of plans to add a long-delayed sanctuary to their 30-year-old facility next to the Carlisle School.

The Congregationalists thus became the third parish to authorize major construction in the past ten years, following completion of an addition to the First Religious Society (FRS) in 1994 and a brand new house of worship for the Saint Irene Catholic Church in 1997. Members of the newly-formed building committee indicated that they chose the neighborhood venue for the announcement because they wanted those who would be affected the most directly to be the first to hear the news.

In an interview this week, committee member Love Seawright stressed that the group is presently at ground zero. "We're at the requirements stage," she said, adding that the committee hasn't yet chosen an architect but is looking at needs. Filling in a bit of history, she noted that the church was originally located in the present Hensleigh residence at the corner of Church and School Streets, but had been forced to move to new quarters 30 years ago, owing to lack of space for a growing Sunday school population.

Education building and sanctuary

At that time, the congregation authorized a two-step process with the so-called "education building" being built immediately and a sanctuary postponed to a future second phase. Original architectural drawings for a completed complex were shown at the neighborhood session, with committee members making it clear that the plans are definitely subject to change. However, the general aspect of a traditional New England church, graced by a modest steeple and in tune with the character of its historic location along the original Estabrook trail, will be maintained The steeple will house the original bell that called the faithful to prayer from 1832 to 1968 in its former home, but it is not contemplated that it will toll the hour in competition with the town clock in the FRS steeple.

Seawright described the neighborhood discussion as "very positive and constructive." A major concern was the placement of the sanctuary itself. Abutters favored setting it back further than originally planned and offered to help obtain a variance that would be needed to permit this change. Although the lot is between five and six acres and allows for plenty of parking in the rear, an angle in the lot line makes recessing the structure somewhat awkward.

As might be anticipated, abutters were interested in landscaping provisions, since it is obvious that construction will require tree removal on the side near the school. They were assured that they would be consulted as plans progressed, both as to landscaping and lighting.

Concerns about increased traffic led to questioning as to whether or not the aim of the new construction was to increase the size of the congregation which, according to Seawright, brings an average of 165 to 175 individuals for weekly services in Fellowship Hall. The original specifications called for a target sanctuary capacity of 400 persons. However, Seawright emphasized that the primary reason for completing the sanctuary at this time relates to major logistical problems caused by mixed use of the hall for worship, social affairs, plays, weddings, etc. In addition, the congregation has identified the need for a choir room, additional Sunday school space and storage.

The building committee, headed by Kirk Ware of Westford, was chosen by the deacons and trustees to reflect the demographics of the congregation and includes all age groups, religious requirements and places of residence. Besides Seawright ,from Carlisle are Dr. Ed Miller and Peter Greer; from Westford Judy Craig, Lindsay Day and Gary Hobday; from Chelmsford Pat Hopkins, Don McGillivrey and Lyn Xavier, and from Lowell, Jon Belanger.

Committee members are visiting other churches that have recent experience with major construction projects. By the end of the month they expect to interview architects but have no set timetable beyond that.

1999 The Carlisle Mosquito