Landmark Townshend Church looks to 'Raise the Roof'


TOWNSHEND -- Given that it's 223 years old, the roof-support system at Townshend Church has held up well.

But the time has come for a repair job at the landmark church off Townshend Common. So church administrators have set an ambitious $50,000 fundraising goal to complete not only the roof job, but also a handful of other projects.

A "Raise the Roof" fundraiser featuring food and music is planned from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday at the church.

"We have this building that needs to be cared for. And we have a small congregation. So it is a very large load for a small congregation," said the Rev. Christine Dyke, the church's minister.

Nonetheless, Dyke is cautiously optimistic that, ultimately, the congregation's goal will be met.

"We've got really generous people around who understand that this is a community building," she said.

The church was built in 1790, and the roof's interior king-post supports date to that time. Dyke terms them "fascinating," noting that Roman numerals carved into the posts to guide the 18th-century builders still are visible.

The problem is that some of the wooden pins holding those beams together have sheared off, resulting in sagging. Crews may soon begin addressing that problem.

Dyke said the work includes jacking up the ceiling "slowly, by millimeters. It's a tedious process."

"We'll start having a lot more problems eventually if we don't do it," she added.

Stabilizing the roof's support system is a big job, but it's not the only repair necessary at Townshend Church.

"We also do need a little repair on the exterior slate roof," Dyke said. "A tree hit us a couple years ago."

The congregation also expects to undertake some foundation-related work, though there are no extensive problems there.

Additionally, there is some renovation needed in a small church addition that was finished in the 1970s. That includes window replacement and a new roof.

"We've had some pretty severe leakage there, so that needs to be done," Dyke said.

Townshend Church already has landed a $15,000 grant from the Vermont Division for Historic Preservation. The congregation must gather $15,000 locally to match the state grant.

But administrators hope their fundraising effort reaches well beyond that, setting a $50,000 goal to cover the roof renovations and other repairs.

"We're well over $10,000," Dyke said. "We're going to keep picking at it. Our first goal is just to get to the $15,000 (grant match). Then I'll breathe a little easier."

She pointed out that the church is more than a house of worship. It serves as a community gathering place, with a diverse list of uses that includes Townshend Community Food Shelf, West River Valley Chorus rehearsals, senior lunches and addiction-recovery meetings.

So she is hoping the community supports the church's fundraisers. Saturday's gathering features pulled-pork sandwiches and music from Little Eddie and the Giants.

There is no admission charge, but donations will be accepted. Contributions also can be sent to Townshend Church, P.O. Box 273, Townshend VT 05353.

Mike Faher can be reached at or 802-254-2311, ext. 275.


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