NASHUA — As a city church embarks on a major, multi-million dollar renovation project, the house of worship is opening its doors this weekend for a community celebration.
“We are welcoming everybody to come and tour our church. We hope it will help us get the word out, and also help us in our path to restoring the church,” said the Rev. Kyrillos Gobran of the St. Mary and Archangel Michael Coptic Orthodox Church.
The church, located at 39 Chandler St. in the city’s French Hill neighborhood, is a landmark building that was constructed in 1895 and formerly housed St. Francis Xavier Roman Catholic Church.
A three-day Egyptian food festival will kick off on Friday as a way to gather city residents, celebrate Nashua’s different cultures and faith, and provide tours of the historic church building.
“Many people have been baptized or married here, and we want them to know that we are still a church and we are still functioning,” Gobran said.
The church building was listed on the New Hampshire State Register of Historic Places in 2017, and the Land Community Heritage and Investment Program provided the church with a $390,000 grant to help with its preservation efforts. In 2016, it was selected as part of the New Hampshire Preservation Alliance’s Seven to Save buildings, a program designed to save threatened landmarks.
Exterior renovations have been underway for about four months.
“We are doing the facade of the church and restoring the three towers (in) phase one of that project,” Gobran said.
Previously, portions of the building’s roof were renovated, and the stained glass at the rear of the church was restored. Cracked marble on the exterior of the building has also been repaired.
According to the church’s website, there are numerous cracks in the facade of the building and repairs to the towers’ stonework and other roof issues are a priority to prevent further damage to the building.
The church is hoping to have nearly 2,000 residents walk through the church this weekend for the Egyptian food festival. Attendees will have the chance to enjoy authentic Egyptian cuisine, Coptic music and children’s activities such as face-painting and bouncy houses, Gobran said.
Festivities will be held Friday from 4-9 p.m., Saturday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Sunday from 12-6 p.m.