UCC of Conway approves new chapel design, plan

  • The tornado-damaged United Congregational Church of Conway was razed on Nov. 12, 2018. Staff File Photo/PAUL FRANZ

  • The Rev. Candice Ashenden watches as the first bites are taken out of her tornado-damaged United Congregational Church of Conway, which was razed on Nov. 12, 2018. Staff File Photo/PAUL FRANZ

  • The tornado-damaged United Congregational Church of Conway was razed on Nov. 12, 2018. Staff File Photo/PAUL FRANZ

  • The Rev. Candice Ashenden poses for a photo in the United Congregational Church of Conway in 2016. The following year, a tornado heavily damaged the church, which was torn down on Nov. 12, 2018. Staff File Photo/Paul Franz

  • The tentative design of the new United Congregational Church of Conway chapel at 44 Whately Road. CONTRIBUTED Photo

  • The tentative design of the new United Congregational Church of Conway chapel at 44 Whately Road. CONTRIBUTED Photo

  • The tentative design of the new United Congregational Church of Conway chapel at 44 Whately Road. CONTRIBUTED Photo

Staff Writer
Published: 6/13/2019 5:40:05 AM

CONWAY — Active members of the United Congregational Church of Conway have approved a design and plan for a new chapel, and hope to have shovels in the ground by the time it thaws next spring.

The church was damaged beyond repair by the February 2017 tornado that ripped through Pumpkin Hollow. It was demolished in November 2018. The new chapel will sit on the footprint of its predecessor at 44 Whately Road.

The Rev. Candice Ashenden explained the congregation is now conducting “the legwork,” referring to obtaining necessary permits. She said she is working with Deerfield contractor Thayer Street Associates. The architect is Richard E. Katsanos of H/AI Architecture of Northampton.

Ashenden said the vote on a design and plan is a morale booster for church-goers.

“The congregation is very excited to be ready to move forward with this and we’re happy that we have finally reached a consensus on what comes next,” she said.

Ashenden, who has been the pastor at UCC of Conway for more than 15 years, said the church is working with $1 million in insurance money after paying for the demolition and related expenses. That, she said, is not much to construct a two-story building. Church members considered starting construction earlier than next year, but they figured they would receive better bids and better pricing if they did not rush the project.

The pastor said the impending building will be a “typical New England chapel with a few modern touches.” She mentioned the street-level floor will be a public access space and the floor below ground level will be mechanical space. Ashenden said the building will feature bathrooms, a chapel space that seats 40 and what is essentially a residential-size kitchen. She said there will “probably be small tweaks as we go forward.”

“It will be greatly reduced from the size of the previous chapel,” she said, adding that this is out of necessity. “Driven by our financial budget and by the current needs of the congregation.”

Three stained glass windows from the previous building were spared and will be a feature of the new chapel.

Ashenden said the decision came down to a vote of active members at a specially called meeting at Conway Grammar School on June 2. She said the church has 28 active members and 22 of them were in attendance that day. There was one abstention and zero negative votes for the proposed design.

She mentioned the church will likely hold a fundraiser in the future to help purchase furnishings “because we’re using pretty much our whole budget for construction.”

Reach Domenic Poli at: dpoli@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 262.


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