Brandon church seeking new roof

The stained glass windows of the Brandon Congregational Church bring visitors from all around.

BRANDON — The Brandon Congregational Church not only stands out physically, as the proud tower holds the town clock and its bells announce the hour, it also stands out spiritually. For decades the church has provided a bevy of services to the community; beyond its religious offerings.

Now, the Congregational Church is looking for help from the community to raise money to fix a leaky roof.

“The original cedar shake shingles are still on the church building,” say pastor Rev. William Bartholomew. “Slate shingles were placed directly over top of the shake, which from what I understand is not uncommon, and now the slate needs replacing and it all needs to come off.”

He said there are also some other minor things that need to be fixed, such as pointing on the masonry as well as some painting and flashing, adding that the church was “a gem in the center of town.”

The church was incorporated in 1785 and the current building was built in 1832, after a fire that razed the former meeting house that existed in the same location. Extensive refurbishing occurred in 1858 and 1891, while the chapel was built in 1861.

The marble pulpit was quarried locally and the bell, purchased in 1884 and weighing 3,043 pounds, is inscribed with the names of the early officers of the church. The bell tower was reinforced and extensive repairs were made to the piers in the early 1980s.

The ceiling inside the sanctuary has been damaged by leaking roof tiles.

Church members Blaine Cliver and Jeff Stewart are working to write a grant proposal to the Vermont Historic Preservation Trust that would help cover some of the costs of the roof. Previously, the two helped write a grant for the Methodist church.

“One of the questions you have to answer for the grant,” Bartholomew said, “is do things happen there that benefit the community.”

The list of things the church does to benefit the community is almost too long to list, according to the pastor.

They have an agreement with Rite-Aid to purchase meds at wholesale for those who cannot afford them; they help provide funds to the Neshobe Principal’s scholarship fund; at the high school, they pay for field trips or buy athletic shoes for kids whose parents either can’t or won’t purchase them.

With $5,000 the church designates for outreach each year, as well as donated cash and gift cards, the pastor has paid electricity bills, fuel bills and much more for residents of the town.

“It’s a fairly poorly kept secret that if you need help, the Congregational Church will be there for you,” Bartholomew said with a kindly smile on his face. The church is also the home for the local food shelf and Bartholomew often helps those in need make it to next week by providing them bags of food.

In addition, the church has hosted cooking classes in the kitchen and held classes to teach people how to eat healthier. The Brandon Festival Singers hold a concert there every December and Olya Hopkins holds violin recitals.

The church does not charge for the use of the fellowship building or the church building and only asks that those who want to use it return it to the previous condition.

“The way it works out,” Bartholomew said, “the donations are actually greater than when we charged for the use of the buildings.”

Four to five times a year, the church holds free dinners for the community and all the leftovers are frozen and given out to people who are sick or in need, at a later time.

Though the clock tower is rented out to a cell phone company who installed a cell tower in it, Bartholomew said the church could not support itself on the 45 to 50 parishioners it gets each week without the help of an endowment, although, they are only allowed to use the interest gained by the endowment each year.

The church also holds weddings, funerals, and many other important community events.

All the outreach the church does around town is for all the residents of Brandon, not just church members. The pastor even helps transients who are moving through the area, but said he draws a line at helping people that are coming down from Rutland because they have so many more opportunities for help there.

After decades of giving to the town, Bartholomew is hoping those good works will inspire area residents to lend a helping hand by donating to the roof fund. Repairs are estimated to cost anywhere between $25,000 and $50,000, but because the grant winners won’t be announced until the end of the year, construction won’t begin until the 2020 construction season.

“We’ve had some wonderful donors over the years,” he said. “They have helped us out in so many ways, but now we need that support again,” adding that one way area residents can help do that is to donate to the fund.

Should you wish to make a donation to support the church’s project, please make your contribution to the Brandon Congregational Church and send to Charlie Herrick, Treasurer, Box 97, Brandon, VT 05733 and designate the building fund. 

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