The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, June 14, 2002


Realization of a 30-year dream The Carlisle Congregational Church builds a new sanctuary

Along with the usual complement of holiday worship services, pageants, gatherings and choral productions that come along every December, the Reverend Keith Greer and his parishioners at the Carlisle Congregational Church will have an additional reason to celebrate this year. If all goes according to schedule, December will mark the end of a yearlong constructio

In March construction is underway for a new church sanctuary. (Photo by Ellen Huber)

n project that has temporarily closed down the church's physical plant but will result in the culmination of a 30-year-long dream.

Parishioner Kirk Ware, chair of the building committee at the Congregational Church, explains why this long-intended project finally became feasible last year. "When the church was originally built, there wasn't enough money for both a sanctuary and a fellowship hall," he says. "So they constructed one building, but even back then, there was the hope of someday building a separate sanctuary. Recently we received a large bequest from a church member, which got the process started, and fundraising efforts generated the rest of the money we needed."

An upgraded facility

The advantages to the new sanctuary are many, Ware says. Along with room for up to 350 people to attend worship services, it will create a better space for musical programs and other church presentations. "It has better stage space, acoustics, and AV presentation possibilities. We'll also end up with a generally upgraded facility, new offices for our two ministers, more storage space, and a larger gathering area between the sanctuary and fellowship hall." The less material benefits are equally important, Ware says; by not requiring one hall to serve two distinctly different purposes, as the combined sanctuary/fellowship hall did, there are myriad intangible improvements in the way attendees can mingle and visit.

The construction process has generally gone smoothly, with few unforeseen obstacles, according to Ware. KFP Associates, a Quincy firm specializing in church construction and renovation, has overseen the architectural end of the project; Nagog Realty Advisors in Acton is doing the construction. "The warm winter worked to our advantage, as did the general slowdown in the construction industry," Ware says. "That made it possible for us to obtain discounts on more expensive materials than we might have used otherwise."

With the Congregational Church's facilities completely shut down for twelve months of construction, the church turned for help to its nearest neighbor­the Carlisle Schools. Sunday services are being held this year in the Corey auditorium, and religious education classes meet in school classrooms. "We are so thankful to have been able to rent the school facilities," says Reverend Greer. "We've had wonderful custodial support there, and everyone involved has really worked hard to meet our needs. In addition, church families have generously opened their own homes for smaller gatherings such as choir practices, Bible study groups and meetings."

Meetings with church neighbors

By mid-June the sanctuary is taking shape. (Photo by Lois d'Annunzio)

Since the church borders on a residential neighborhood, Reverend Greer says that a top priority in the construction process was to avoid imposing upon abutters and nearby households. "We held a number of meetings with the church's neighbors to hear their concerns, and tried hard to use their feedback in the final results," Ware explains. "We situated the parking lot behind the building, which is more visually appealing, and did minimal clearing of trees. We also tried to use minimal outside lighting." The zoning board of appeals approved the church's request to build slightly closer to the lot line than is generally allowed to avoid the appearance of the church buildings "hovering" over the street.

Due to efforts from the church and the neighbors alike to be accommodating, there has been little friction, says Reverend Greer. "In fact, the biggest challenge we've created may have been with our other neighbors, the Carlisle kindergarten. It's probably hard for teachers to maintain kids' attention when there's major construction going on right outside their windows."

The Carlisle Congregational Church has been in its current location for the past 30 years; prior to that, it occupied the small white building at the corner of School and Church Streets, now a private residence. A church that draws from almost all of the surrounding towns as well as Carlisle itself, its membership includes residents of Concord, Westford, Littleton, Chelmsford and Bedford.

Reverend Greer recently completed 28 years as its pastor, and he is looking forward to joining his parishioners in their new home in another six months. "One particularly positive thing about being away from our premises for a year is that there is a growing sense of anticipation about being back," he says. "There are a lot of people for whom this project has been a hope and a dream for many, many years. We all have a great sense of excitement about the church's future in our new facilities."

2002 The Carlisle Mosquito