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IMPORTANT MESSAGE from Reverend Sara
Dear Members and Friends of United Congregational Church:
We are blessed to be a blessing. And the day after I preached about this same spiritual endeavor, we were blessed again.
About 5:30 AM Monday morning, a portion of the ceiling of Pilgrim Hall collapsed. Shirley and Bill Neighbors found it when they arrived at 8:30 AM Monday morning.
The section that fell – all in one piece – was directly over the stage – and the area where we serve food. This event – while a costly mess which interrupts our life here – could have been very tragic if it had happened any other time. We are all grateful no one was hurt. We are blessed.
Our primary building contractor, Dahill Contruction, already has a team on site with engineers, electrician, haz mat specialists, and contractors working on this complicated situation. This original piece of ceiling is made of 93 year old plaster and metal lathe attached to wooden furring strips attached to the joists under the floor of the sanctuary. The part we see (or used to) are the acoustic tiles glued to the plaster. All of that fell and hit the stage and directly in front of the stage. It left a big mess. The clean-up will be worse than the repair.
Given the age of our building, they are testing the area for asbestos and lead – we will know that by week’s end we hope. So in the meantime – all entrances to the ENTIRE LOWER LEVEL are closed and covered. NO ONE is allowed on the LOWER LEVEL – including Pilgrim Hall and the kitchen and the NPUOI Offices and Class rooms….until we know what we are dealing with.
Dahill assures us that the building is structurally sound. The sanctuary is safe. They will check other portions of the Pilgrim Hall ceiling to make sure it is safe. If not, those portions will be repaired as well.
I have kept our Executive Board, Board of Trustees and Board of Deacons – and the NPUOI Board of Directors – apprised of the situation. The Food staff met last night to access how we keep our Hospitality Hour, Food Pantry, Feel the Warmth, and Emergency Shelter. We had to get creative. But we have a good plan for this week – and we will continue our ministries (including Worship, Children’s Choir and Confirmation), and we will continue to feed and house our neighbors. Depending on the length of the clean up and repair in Pilgrim Hall, we will modifying our plan daily. But for right now:
· The Emergency Shelter will be in the Chapel – pews are being removed (which we had to do anyway) and our rental church will use chairs.
· The Food Pantry will use only what they can get at the CT Food Bank – and will pass pre-made bags out to our neighbors in our Narthex.
· The Feel the Warmth meal will be a to-go meal – handed out in the Narthex. We will try and find an alternative location to cook and serve our hot meal since our kitchen is closed.
· ESL will be on main level.
· Hospitality Hour will be in the Guild Room.
· Sunday School will be on third floor.
· Worship will continue to be on the sanctuary.
Our aim is to clean-up the mess, repair the hall, and be ready for our closing date of May 1.
And along the way, we will give God thanks that we have the ability, the resources, and our good people to handle this accident.
We will carry on… and we will remain blessed…..Reverend Sara
News about the remediation and restoration of our spiritual home. Everything has suddenly opened up in this process. This shot gazes into where our ceiling used to be. As you notice the temporary support trestle to the right (newer, treated upright wood) you can see how utterly failed that truss is, sagging badly. The floor you see at is the “dance floor” of plywood on the scaffolding, soaring upward through the vaulted space. The ceiling came out double-bagged in 1,100 airtight Hefty bags, placed in an airtight special container on our lawn. Six hard-working Latinos performed this formidable feat.
We had to remediate a very small amount of asbestos in the skim coat on our ceiling, which was removed according to stringent and costly CT code on abatement. Our airspace is now being checked to make sure it is absent of all asbestos. Getting ready to import the massive steel I-beams to marry to the trusses at the lowest point of deflection, before we put on a new lighter drywall ceiling.
Obviously, we remain in the posture of inviting your prayers. This was architecture/ construction from 1830s America, such a different era.
Photos Feb. 19, 2017
Photos below from summer 2016
View of scaffolding from pulpit
Downstairs view toward front doors
“floor” built for work on ceiling
Another view of the “floor”. See chandelier for orientation!