About 50 members and friends of the First Congregational Church (United Church of Christ) held an unusual gathering on Saturday, March 22.
They arrived at 3 p.m. to celebrate (and remember) one of their special members, Gary Grossman, who has passed on, but his love for this church and its people live on through a financial gift that allowed First Congregational to complete an interior renovation project in the church’s basement.
“Gary expressed his desire for the funds to be used for FCC’s purposes with emphasis on scholarship and building needs,” according to information provided by the church.
“He’d be so pleased and proud of the job the people of the church did (on this renovation),” said his sister Susan Urbanek, who added, “Gary really loved this church, its people and Chelsea.”
So what began in the fall of 2013 thanks to Grossman’s bequeath, was officially blessed and enjoyed yesterday afternoon through laughter, love, prayer, fellowship and food.
There was a ribbon cutting by Urbanek and a very special blessing by Pastor Joe Jeffreys, who called the project the result of the vision of one person, and a resource carried out by stewards of the church, who prayed for the best way to make this a mission for God and the future of not just the church but also the community.
“What door will God open again for us in the future?” Jeffreys asked those in attendance.
The original church was established in 1852 with 54 members on Middle Street.
For years, it was the second building in town with a basement and a furnace. Because of this, the church was used as a regular meeting place by many organizations. And once again, it’s hoped that this tradition is rekindled.
In 1894, a fire destroyed the church and the present building was rebuilt and rededicated 11 months later in 1895, according to information from the church.
Plus, while the basement project was underway, contractors unearthed the original north stone wall and as part of the project, the gorgeous stonework has been left exposed “as a reminder of how strong our foundation is built on the teaching of Jesus Christ and FCC’s role in being a pioneer of the Chelsea Community,” according to church information.
The basement renovation is the first phase of a more extensive plan for greater handicapped accessibility for the church and planned enhancements to the surrounding property.
The new bright and airy basement includes two new restrooms, glass block windows, paint, flooring, lighting of both the dining area and the kitchen.
The 165-year-old church now has central air conditioning throughout it as well.
“Christ taught us long ago …” Jeffreys said, “the church is the people … this is just the beginning.”
A handicapped entrance to the basement will be added this spring in conjunction with the Chelsea Downtown Development Authority’s alley improvements from Jackson to Middle Street.
For more information about renting the new space and the church, click here or call the church at 475-1844.