$250K grant within reach for First Church

By Laurie Hamame - lhamame@aimmediamidwest.com

On the heels of a celebratory 175th anniversary worship service, First Church has been named one of 17 recipients of up to $250,000 in grants from the National Fund for Sacred Places.

To pocket the full amount, the church needs to raise $500,000. The total $750,000 must be spent on the preservation of the Meeting House, the town’s only church until 1855.

The Rev. David Hill proposed rebuilding the sandstone steps that used to welcome guests into the nave. The foundation underneath the locally-fired bricks has eroded, and Hill estimates the project will cost $100,000.

Other ideas include repainting the tower atop the Meeting House and possibly installing an elevator in the fellowship hall to make Sunday school classrooms more accessible.

History chair Laurel Price Jones and Gene Matthews, co-chair of the church’s “green team,” will accompany Hill to a training and project consultation in November in Philadelphia.

Hill said the process was lengthy and competitive, but believes the church’s application was well-positioned for acceptance. The National Fund looks for churches that open their doors to the community, and he said that is something First Church succeeds at.

Director Chad Martin said that out of the 220 congregations that applied, First Church is of national importance.

“Home of the renowned preacher Charles Finney and a vital hub for the abolitionist movement in the 19th century, First Church continues to serve its community through active engagement in civic issues and community-wide partnerships and ministry,” he said.

Laurie Hamame can be reached at 440-775-1611 or @HamameNews on Twitter.

By Laurie Hamame