POULTNEY — After a relatively quiet winter, members of Poultney’s United Baptist Church are ready to get back to work.
Progress on the restoration of the 215-year-old church on East Poultney’s historic town green slowed last year because of the departure of its pastor as well as additional unforeseen repairs, but church council member Janet Parker said they are back on track.
Parker said the Rev. Todd Eaton left his post last year when his wife had to move for work. The church community of around two dozen is still looking for new pastor.
A bigger curve ball was the discovery that the slate roof needed to be replaced. Initial plans were only to repair it.
According to church counsel Bonnie Ennis, at some point in the building’s history, slate shingles were installed over the original cedar shakes. As the cedar aged, it could no long support the slate.
The new roof will cost $85,000. So far, the church has raised $10,000.
Ennis said she is not discouraged about the roof. “There’s so much of the community behind this. ... We’re going to be able to do what we need to do to get the roof done.”
She added that she hopes some of that support comes from local slate companies the church has solicited for donations of materials.
In 2018, the church community kicked off a capital campaign to raise funds to restore the building. Following a strategy developed by Maine-based firm Full Harvest Fundraising, the church secured a $50,000 grant from the Vermont Community Foundation’s Hills and Hollows Fund as well as a $100,000 matching grant from the National Fund for Sacred Places. Parker said they exceeded the match by $30,000.
While work on the roof has slowed, renovations to the rest of the church are progressing.
Parker said the building’s windows are currently being restored off site, and work on the steeple and its clock face is nearly complete thanks to a $20,000 historic preservation grant from the Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development.
Caitlin Corkins, a tax credits and grants coordinator at the state Agency of Commerce, works with groups like Ennis and Parker’s around the state. She said the office awards $220,000 in grants annually, which funds only a small part of the more than $750,000 in requests the agency receives every year.
Corkins called the church an “architectural gem,” and credited small, “dedicated groups of folks” like those in Poultney with doing the difficult work of preserving Vermont’s many historic buildings.
Once the weather warms up, Ennis said, workers will begin scraping and painting the exterior of the building.
Ennis is optimistic that renewed activity will once again pique people’s interest and bring in more donations.
She said the church is the “centerpiece,” explaining that historically it formed the center of the Poultney community before the town migrated westward to recenter itself around the railroad.
During the course of its life, the church has served as both a sanctuary and community gathering place. Ennis said the restoration is an attempt to bring the space back to the center of the community. “This is for everybody.
“It’s a building worth saving,” said Ennis.
United Baptist Church of Poultney will accept donations at its website: www.ubcofpoultney.com/giveserve.