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'Save Our Steeple' campaign mounted in Meredith

Union Leader Correspondent

October 27. 2017 12:34AM

Limerick Steeplejacks of Limerick, Maine, are busy making repairs to the steeple on the Meredith Center Freewill Baptist Church. (BEA LEWIS/UNION LEADER Correspondent)

MEREDITH — New Hampshire’s weather has taken its toll on the steeple of the historic Meredith Center Freewill Baptist Church.

Deacon Don Kimball said an inspection this spring discovered snow inside the steeple, which was added to the 1831 church in 1859. Water was making its way inside the steeple which soars some 75 feet at its peak and had caused some major structural damage.

Limerick Steeplejacks were called in to assess the extent of the damage and estimated repairs would cost $30,000.

Church Clerk Lucienne “Cookie” Boulanger said the congregation was able to partner with the Wicwas Lake Grange. A ham and bean supper held at the Grange Hall, just a half-mile from the church, over the weekend raised $6,100 to support the SOS (Save Our Steeple) campaign.

“The church is trying to do the same thing we did with the Grange Hall,” said Steve Durand, the master of the Wicwas Lake Grange. That building was in poor shape but local businesses, residents and civic organizations donated cash, materials and sweat equity. The hall has been fully restored and plays an important role in the community.

Jeff Laliberte, who became pastor of the church six months ago, said he felt the warmth of the people as soon as he arrived.

“Our church is really looking to go beyond its doors and share the gospel of Jesus and help the church family integrate into the community,” he said.

Boulanger, who has been a member of the church since the 70s, recalls attending services when the sanctuary that holds approximately 200 people would be full. The original pump pipe organ is still in place.

Former organist Joanne Berry didn’t have the needed leg strength so Chuck and Andrew Taggett would kneel on each side of the organ, Boulanger said, and pump their respective pedal as Berry worked the keyboard.

“They’re both in their 30s now,” Boulanger said of the organist's helpers.

The interior of the church remains in remarkable condition and still has oil lamp fixtures, which were electrified in the 60s. 

A history of the church details that in 1850 a ladies group was organized which made clothing for soldiers in the 12th New Hampshire Regiment.

Members of the Meredith Center Freewill Baptist Church from left, Deacon Don Kimball, Deaconess Bonnie Kimball, Clerk Lucienne Boulanger and Roberta Laliberte, children's education. Back row, Steve Durand, Master of the Wicwas Lake Grange and Pastor Jeff Laliberte gather in the sanctuary of the 1831 church. (Bea Lewis/Union Leader Correspondent)

Kimball said the steeplejacks are expected to complete the work in November after having faced some delays, first encountering a colony of bees, then high winds and more recently rain. One of the last portions of the project will be repairing the rotted bell cradle.

“We’ve had a lot of generous people give money and last Saturday’s dinner at the Grange was a big success,” said Kimball.

Durand said local businesses donated items that were raffled as gift baskets during the dinner that was attended by 140 adults and 27 children.

“We hope to be able to keep it up and get the Lord’s name right out there. It strengthens us as a whole when we work with partners like the Grange,” said Laliberte. 

To date they have raised nearly $20,000 of their $30,000 goal. Those interested in making a donation to the SOS Campaign can send them to the Meredith Freewill Baptist Church at P.O. Box 336, Meredith, N.H. 03253

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