PARIS – Several members of the Methodist Church gathered around a table Tuesday night in the cramped kitchen underneath the sanctuary to talk about saving the church.
Though money might be scarce, music is a lot easier to come by.
“I’d like to fill the church with music,” the Rev. Walter Webb said. So, members are looking to organize concerts to raise some of the $800,000 the Deering Memorial United Methodist Church needs in restoration work.
The most pressing concern at the moment is the 95-year-old stone tower, which could collapse within three years if not repaired.
“It adds such character to Main Street, South Paris,” Jinger Duryea said Tuesday night at the regular meeting of the Finance Committee. “It would be unfathomable to see what it would look like without the tower there. We need people to step up.”
Another church member has doctored a picture of the church without the tower. “It looks like the old jail on Paris Hill,” Tracy Knight said.
So far in the fundraising strategy, the church committee has decided it will try to organize two musical events to raise money – one by a young musician who heads the Methodist music camp in Winthrop, and the other by the bell choir with the United Methodist Church in Auburn.
Another tactic the committee is tossing around to encourage donors is a stone sponsorship program.
The tower must be taken down stone-by-stone and rebuilt. If donors support the church, they could be given an individual stone, inscribed in some way, which would then be laid into the tower walls. They also could receive a memento, a piece of granite perhaps, with an image of the church.
Charles Longley, the church historian, said he also is researching grants that fund churches.
Church members started to notice water damage a few years ago as the tower’s masonry began to erode more steadily. A Band-Aid fix was attempted back in the early 1990s.
Once the leaking accelerated, the iron beam supporting the tower began to rust, and then to expand, which further weakened the masonry structure. Cracks are showing up on the walls.
Judy Knight, a member of the church committee, said, “We can always pray like we do everyday and say, Please help us.'”