Year In Review: Renovations And Celebrations At Local Houses Of Worship

Published: December 30, 2018 at 08:00 am


Renovations and celebrations moved many of Newtown’s houses of worship through the last 12 months.

Trinity Episcopal Church celebrated interior renovations this year. An inspection in 2017 revealed serious deterioration of keys and lugs throughout the plaster ceiling of the historic Main Street building. The decorated plaster ceiling above the nave underwent a treatment process that “will save it for the long term,” the church announced via press release in late February.

The largest annual fundraiser for Newtown Ecumenical Workcamp Servants was celebrated in March, when young adults and many of their chaperones hosted a large breakfast event for friends, family, sponsors, and local clergy. Faith Anchors The Soul was the theme of the March 10 event, held at Newtown Congregational Church (NCC).

The NCC Men’s Club cooked up the breakfast, which was served by the work campers — 40 young adults representing the host church along with Christ the King Lutheran Church, Congregation Adath Israel, and St Rose of Lima Roman Catholic Church — who were planning to be in Biloxi, Miss., June 24-July 1, for a week of service projects with Back Bay Mission.

Guests that morning did not pay admission to attend the breakfast. Instead, they were encouraged to “tip” their servers. Those funds were then added to the growing account that helped cover the costs of the trip.

St Rose of Lima celebrated the groundbreaking for a major renovation and expansion project on July 13, when approximately 100 people gathered in the parking lot of 46 Church Hill Road for a groundbreaking ceremony. Calling it “a day of great celebration,” Bishop Frank Caggiano rejoiced in the fact that St Rose parishioners will soon have “a much larger, more welcoming, and inviting space to worship and gather.”

The parish is expanding its vestibule, renovating its sanctuary, creating a Garden of Peace, and improving its parking lot.

A few weeks later, heavy rain washed out a massive water balloon toss planned as one of the many activities for 2018 Fan The Fire — an annual youth gathering hosted by the town’s Catholic church — but 450 young attendees from two dozen Diocese of Bridgeport parishes nevertheless enjoyed fun, camaraderie, and potent messages inside the parish center. Organizer Rodd Blessey told The Newtown Bee that the event’s return to Newtown, following a one-year relocation to Trumbull last summer, was “a great success.”

On November 7, an exciting addition for the church’s expanding sanctuary arrived: a 38-foot-tall steeple crafted by Campbellsville Industries was delivered that morning and installed without issue within a few hours, according to project manager John Kuck.

In September, Newtown Congregational Church received its formal certificate from Connecticut Conference of the United Church of Christ, recognizing NCC as an official Open and Affirming congregation. Reverend Matthew Crebbin, senior pastor of the West Street church, said the decision to welcome all is “a reflection of who we are and who we have been as a church family. It is a decision made by our membership to publicly declare our congregation’s commitment to serving the community in which we live.”

In October, the annual CROP Hunger Walk took place at Fairfield Hills. More than a dozen people bundled in coats and gloves braced a chilly Sunday afternoon, participating in a 2½-mile walk meant to help end local and worldwide hunger and poverty.

Among those joining this year’s walk, which was organized by NCC Senior Pastor Matthew Crebbin, were members of Bridgewater Congregational Church.

On November 1, Grace Family Church celebrated the placement of a 14-foot-tall steeple atop its new church building, currently under construction in Hawleyville. Once complete, a 24,900-square-foot building off Covered Bridge Road will replace the church’s current location on Mount Pleasant Road.

Pastor Sheila Fredericks, the assistant senior pastor of the church, said he and her family, staff, and congregation expect to move into their new church home within a few months.

Newtown Interfaith Association hosted an annual Thanksgiving gathering, with representatives from myriad houses of worship joining together on November 18 at St Rose of Lima Church.

Monsignor Robert Weiss, senior pastor of the host church, reminded attendees that Thanksgiving is “a wonderful time to come together. This national holiday allows all to come together, regardless of faith.”

Echoing those words, the Reverend Leo McIlrath later encouraged those in the pews to think about the approaching holiday, “when all Americans will come together for just one purpose.”

Congregation Adath Israel hosted two public events within a few weeks.

On December 4, the Huntingtown Road synagogue welcomed members and friends for its second annual Community Menorah Lighting. The lobby and gathering room of Adath Israel were filled with revelers that Tuesday evening, after guests of all ages had marked the third night of Hanukkah with an outdoor ceremony, singing, and the sharing of gelt.

A few weeks later, the synagogue co-hosted with Newtown Interfaith Association an interfaith service of remembrance on the sixth anniversary of 12/14. Joining Rabbi Barukh Schectman, who led the service of prayer, reading and reflection, were members of local clergy and members of houses of worship.

Earlier in the day, Newtown Congregational, Newtown United Methodist, St Rose of Lima, and Trinity Episcopal were among the houses of worship that opened their doors for the day, inviting all in for quiet reflection.


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