Hinsdale church to celebrate 250 years of worship

Tuesday February 5, 2013

HINSDALE, N.H. -- It was a completely different era when the First Congregational Church first opened its doors - the American colonies still answered to the English crown and Hinsdale and Vernon, Vt., were the same town.

That was 250 years ago and the church, now located at 36 Main St., has had three different homes and countless parishioners in that time. And those affiliated with it thought holding a series of special events would be the best way to honor two and a half centuries of history in a town that has seen so much change.

"We thought, 'It's been 250 years. Let's do something to make the community take notice,'" said the Rev. Leon Momaney, who has been with First Congregational since 2005 after serving at Calvary Baptist Church in Pittsburgh.

The celebration will kick off with a winter carnival on Saturday, Feb. 9, from noon to 5 p.m. Momaney said the carnival will consist of games and a food court as well as snowsculpting contests, snowshoe races across the street from the church and sleigh rides through Heritage Park, depending on the weather.

He said he has about 20 volunteers and an active youth program of 39 teenagers assisting him.

On Feb. 10, the Sunday closest to Valentine's Day, there will be a free pancake breakfast followed by a ceremony that will include wedding vow renewals for all couples married in the church. All events are free and open to the public.

All couples who were married in the First Congregational Church in Hinsdale are invited to participate in the wedding vow renewal service. Anyone interested can call Momaney at 603-336-7020 for more information.

Other events scheduled for 2013 include a block party in May and an ice cream social in July. Momaney also said there will be a rededication of the church's pipe organ sometime in the fall but does not yet have a specific date.

Parishioner Alice Nadeau said she hopes the events will both celebrate the church's history and help bring more people back to it.

"We're losing religion in this country. A lot of people, I don't know what they believe in. I don't know how they survive," she told the Reformer. "People are so busy with their lives, they feel they don't have time for church on Sundays."

Nadeau was baptized in the First Congregational Church and has been involved with it her whole life. She recalled a time when she would have to stand in the back during services and said now it is rare to fill a few pews. She hopes events like the ones the church is planning will engage young families.

She also said the group of parishioners organizing the festivities has also just finished compiling special 12page history booklets that will be given out at events.

According to church historian Marjorie Johnson, the First Congregational Church opened in 1763. Its first site was located on Prospect Street, where a plaque now commemorates the development. She said in 1808 a second building was constructed where the traffic lights down the street from Hinsdale Town Hall are now. Johnson said Anna Marsh, the woman who left money in her will for the development of what is now The Brattleboro Retreat, donated a bell to church, though it is not there anymore.

Johnson said the church reorganized in the 1830s and now rests at 36 Main St.

"I'm glad to see people are going to recognize us," she said. "Lots of people nowadays don't care about history. But the church has a history and it's a proud one."

Domenic Poli can be reached at dpoli@reformer.com, or 802-2542311. You can follow him@dpoli_reformer.


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