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Renovation complete at St. Luke’s United Methodist Church in Derry

Union Leader Correspondent

March 26. 2014 5:58PM

DERRY — A major renovation project that started five years ago to help restore the exterior and bell tower of St. Luke’s United Methodist Church has just concluded.

Workers from J J & A Home Improvement in Derry stood high above the ground on scaffolding and endured brutal cold as they labored through the frigid winter. They just put the finishing touches on the 60-foot-tall bell tower recently, Pastor Susan Walker said.

The work has transformed deteriorating sections of the building and, in turn, inspired the congregation.

“It helps us to know that we are good stewards of God’s house,” Walker said as she stood in the church’s sanctuary.

Standing with Walker was Bruce Cameron, chair of St. Luke’s board of trustees. Cameron, who has helped lead the effort, said the project was begun because the building was aging and the roof was leaking.

“We were leaking in this part of the building and (we) finally said,’ OK, it’s got to get done,’” said Cameron, looking toward the ceiling of the sanctuary.

St. Luke’s is at 63 E. Broadway, across from MacGregor Park and the Derry Public Library.

It was first organized on Feb. 12, 1888. A church was soon built at a cost of $4,000 and dedicated on June 17, 1889, according to local historical records.

The parsonage was built in 1898.

During the next century, the elements took their toll on the church. Sections of the wooden structure began rotting and the roof started leaking, Cameron said.

As the condition of the building deteriorated, church members wanted to make the necessary repairs but the work had to be delayed because of cost concerns, Cameron said.

And then in 2009, church members decided the work couldn’t be delayed any longer and they began a series of fundraisers to help pay for the project, Cameron said. Members held dinners and organized concerts in the sanctuary to raise money. They also put on talent shows and held bulb sales in the spring and fall.

St. Luke’s was also assisted in the effort by a past member who bequeathed some money to the church. A fund was established to help pay for the various projects and get the work started.

Fundraisers were then held to replenish the fund until another project came along and more money was needed, Walker said.

The renovation work began with a project to replace the leaky roof. The left side of the roof was replaced and the right side was completed in the spring of 2010, Cameron said.

Other projects followed, including the renovation of the parsonage in 2011. St. Luke’s received a grant from Public Service of New Hampshire in 2012 that helped pay for new insulation for the parsonage. Siding work to the front of the building was completed the next year.

Work then began on the bell tower this past fall, Cameron said.

He praised the efforts of JJ & A owner Gerry Bouthillette, who climbed the scaffolding to perform the necessary work during the grueling winter.

“Why he worked through this past winter, sometimes I have to wonder,” Cameron said.

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