July 16, 2007
By WILL RYAN
VERGENNES — Paul Vachon’s footsteps echo through the bare worship space of the Congregational Church in Vergennes, which is currently undergoing significant interior renovations.
“Everything that you can see in the interior is going to have a new facelift,” said Vachon, chairman of the church’s building committee. The empty space is devoid of pews and the aging cork floor is out of place beneath the myriad colors thrown by the expansive stain glass windows.
There are no structural changes being made, but the result of the project will be significant, Vachon said. Renovations started in the middle of June, but the project has been five or six years in the making. It’s been more than 30 years since the last renovation.
“We came to the conclusion that it was our turn,” Vachon said, in regard to the current generation’s responsibility to update the space.
After receiving an estimate of $150,000, the congregation decided to raise the money before getting started with the actual renovations. After a year of fundraising, donations, and community events, that goal has been reached allowing the work to go forward.
Many changes are being made to the space. The entire interior is being repainted. The older cork floor is being replaced with oak flooring, along with new carpeting throughout the building. A layer of thin sheet rock is being added to the plaster walls. All of the woodwork, doors, and pews are also receiving a new finish.
In a recent interview, Gary Lewis, pastor of the congregation, chuckled as Vachon noted the “extensive process” that went into selecting a new color for the space. “The youth themselves wanted a brighter color,” he said. “We’re going to brighten it up with a much sunnier disposition.”
A “creamy yellow” will be the final coating, adding brightness and highlighting the colors of the stain glass windows.
Without its regular worship space, the service has moved to the church’s smaller Fellowship Hall. The smaller space fits the smaller summer congregation, which is without music and Sunday school programs during the renovation, just fine.
“We are able to fit in, and fit nicely, downstairs,” Lewis said. “People are finding it to be a nice worship space where we can have more of a conversational style service.”
The church has been a part of the community for more than 200 years and the original foundation still stands. When it was first chartered in 1788 the windows were transparent plate-glass and the clock tower was completely absent. Since then attendance has grown significantly, along with the building’s expansion. Renovations, Vachon said, have come along with each generation about every 25 to 30 years.
The renovation is scheduled to be complete by Sept. 1, when attendance generally jumps back up due to the completion of summer.
“The renovation will brighten the worship space, but I don’t know if it can brighten our people, they are pretty bright to begin with,” Lewis said with a laugh. “The worship space will hopefully catch up to where the congregation is, as far as its vitality.”