SOUTH THOMASTON — A prominent South Thomaston landmark is without its center piece following the removal of a cupola and bell from atop a high platform.
Tuesday morning, June 11, as driving rains saturated clothing from every angle, the crew of Arthur Henry Crane Services, of Thomaston, attached straps to the deteriorating cupola atop People’s United Methodist Church, at 13 Chapel Street.
The crane operator floated the cupola, and then the bell, to the ground, where they will remain for restoring, as determined by funding efforts.
The congregation hopes to draw the eye, and the people, and to be regarded as a community resource for South Thomaston, Rockland, and Camden, according to Bill Torpey, People’s chairman of the board of trustees.
Along with religious services, the church is home to an exercise class, is a destination for adults with Coastal Opportunities, a meeting place for Alcoholics Anonymous, and a venue for special events.
Congregation members are active with the Hospitality House, Area Interfaith Outreach, The Landing Place youth center, camps, and other events.
They’d like to open their doors as an emergency shelter in order to make use of the large kitchen, open space, restrooms and showers.
And they’d also like to avoid shuttering altogether as they watch their attendance numbers decrease and their counterparts around the state lock their doors for good.
The congregation of People’s United is small, approximately 40 regulars, though sometimes numbers swell to 70 attendees. They create a nondenominational group with members coming from as far as Camden and Rockland.
Their nursery hasn’t been used in years now that the youngest have grown.
Yet, additions to the original building, built in 1877 in the area that is now the paved driveway, fill the space with daytime sun and positive energy.
With that energy, the members are entering the boxing ring with the willingness to spar for a greater title.
“I like to think that we give beyond our weight class,” said Torpey. “And, we’re fighting well above our weight class.”
And so, the congregation is stripping away the eyesores, which also happen to be safety hazards. The bell may be irreparable, according to Torpey, and the weathervane came down a number of years ago.
Since then, a railing around the sky-high structure started to fall off. When church members climbed up for a closer look, they found rotting wood on the steeple of the church known as an iconic symbol of South Thomaston’s village, along with the ‘Keag Store and the library.
The church doesn’t qualify for the Maine Steeples Fund because not all parts of the building are original, though the windows are. Therefore, fundraising efforts have begun.
Through it all, People’s United is opening its doors to a more secure future.
“We improve the structure and improve our footprint in the community,” said Torpey. “Maybe those things will come together for us.”
To donate, send contributions directly to the church at PO Box 83, South Thomaston, ME 04858, or see them on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/Peoples-United-Methodist-Church-of-South-Thomaston-Maine-521303254659390/
They are also in the process of setting up a Go Fund Me page for on-line donations.
Reach Sarah Thompson at firstname.lastname@example.org