GREENWICH — After a yearlong fundraising campaign that exceeded its goal, the congregation of Bottskill Baptist Church is back in its sanctuary.
The discovery of dangerous roof deterioration in March 2017 forced the congregation to move temporarily out of its landmark 1866 brick building. It also closed the downstairs fellowship hall where community groups met.
“The community (response) was overwhelming,” said Pastor Sandra Spaulding. “We had such support. We didn’t expect to be back here so quickly.”
In late March 2017, a church member at a service noticed that a cornice in one corner of the sanctuary had dropped by about 4 inches. An inspection showed damage to three of the five trusses that held up the church’s slate roof.
Structural engineers and Washington County code enforcement officials recommended closing the building unless the trusses could be repaired, at an estimated cost of $231,000.
The congregation of about 200 had already been discussing fundraising for other maintenance and improvement projects, for another $150,000.
In July, the congregation voted to hold a fundraising campaign for $250,000, which would cover the repairs and remaining funds needed for the other projects.
“People thought it was a brave decision when we started,” Spaulding said.
Members of the congregation organized fundraisers, reached out to the community and applied for grants.
The campaign planners aimed to raise 45 percent in grants, 30 percent from the congregation and 25 percent from the community. The final breakdown was 18 percent from grants, 47 percent from individuals and members of the congregation, 31 percent from churches and businesses and 4 percent from fundraisers.
Participation by the community was larger than expected, Spaulding said.
“We heard from a lot of people from all over the country,” from people whose ancestors had belonged to the 251-year-old congregation or had a connection to Greenwich.
Many mentioned the three church spires, including Bottskill Baptist’s, that are a distinctive feature of the village’s skyline.
The congregation successfully matched a $40,000 grant from the New York Landmark Conservancy’s Sacred Sites Program. Other grants came from the American Baptist Home Mission Society, the Glens Falls Foundation and the Verizon Foundation Cyber Grants.
Several area churches reached out.
Centenary United Methodist up the street, which allowed the Baptists to hold services there while their own building was closed, also gave the Baptists the proceeds from one of their First Friday dinners.
Village Baptist, a sister American Baptist congregation in Fort Edward, held a benefit chicken and biscuit dinner.
St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic Church in Greenwich donated funds from a Knights of Columbus breakfast and a concert. That was in addition to the Baptists’ own fundraisers, including a basket party, auction and coffeehouse.
“We are so grateful for the generosity of our community partners and friends,” Spaulding said. “They have been fantastic!”
Spaulding noted that surpassing the fundraising goal was good, “as we all know that repairs/restoration costs always exceed expectations.” As it turned out, a fourth truss needed attention, too. Also, the activity upstairs caused plaster to fall off one of the walls of the downstairs fellowship hall.
Work was done by Justin Rushinski, the church’s longtime contractor, and Scott Thetford of Historic Restoration Contractors and their crew. The only permanent changes to the sanctuary are a pair of posts at either side of the choir loft, supporting the structure above. Antique numbered pews that had to be moved for access and safety were replaced in their correct position.
The church reopened for worship, Sunday school and mission projects on Sept. 16.
Still to come are painting of the sanctuary and completion of repairs and renovations downstairs.
Spaulding said the contractors have told them the basement will be usable in time for the church’s annual chicken and biscuit dinner in February or March. The community groups that were meeting there will then be able to return.
“That had become quite a mission for the community,” Spaulding said. “Groups always need a place to go.”
The church plans to hold a dedication service and open house when the restoration is complete. For the time being, the Baptists are keeping photos taken during the reconstruction on a bulletin board in the sanctuary, “so we remember,” Spaulding said.