By Pam Harnden, Staff Writer
WILTON — The 200th anniversary of the Wilton Congregational Church UCC was celebrated with special events last Saturday and Sunday.
Saturday, former pastors of the church were invited to a gathering referred to as “Pasta With the Pastors.” The evening began with a social hour.
Attending were the Reverands Doug Dunlap, Allison Smith and Dee Webber.
After the social hour, everyone enjoyed a condensed history of the church presented through narration and skits. Rev. Margaret Proctor, a retired minister and member of the church, wrote the script. To do so, she researched church records.
The church was founded with a group of eight people on February 19, 1818. The first services were held in people’s homes and itinerant preachers were hired. One year the church hired Rev. Jotham Sewall to preach 10 Sundays for $28.
The first non-residential building used for services was built in 1820 across from the intersection of Orchard Drive and the Colby Miller Road. In 1829, the Congregationalists along with several other groups built the Second Free Meeting House, which later became Wilton Academy.
In the mid-1850s, members wanted their own building. The church was finished and dedicated in 1857.
On March 15, 1869, an accumulation of snow caused the church roof to collapse. Wooden pieces from the church were sold for $0.06 each to help with rebuilding costs. Exactly one year later, the church was rededicated.
In 1908 the vestry was torn down and a new one erected. The kitchen was on the second floor but the dining room was on the first!
By the late 1940s, more space was needed for Sunday school classrooms. With no space for an addition, about a year was spent excavating with picks, shovels and wheelbarrows to add space underneath the building.
In 1956, land behind the church was purchased for a new kitchen. The first annual church supper using the new kitchen (on the same floor as the dining room) was held on Jan. 15, 1957.
On June 15, 1958, disaster struck again when the new boiler exploded. Damage estimates were $10,000 but the insurance only paid $1,500 (which included one coat of paint).
Services were held at the Methodist Church for three Sundays. A re-dedication service was held Nov. 16, 1958.
Following the history presentation, supper of hot and cold pasta dishes, salads and rolls was served with birthday cake and ice cream for dessert.
Sunday morning a service of celebration and re-dedication was held. A letter from U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin, R-Maine, was read. Scott Shepherd gave a proclamation after which the children of the church led the procession of choir members and church officials to the front.
Rev. Allison Smith and Rev. Doug Dunlap shared reminiscences from their time as pastor of the church.
Those who had served the church, but passed before the church’s Bicentennial celebration were then remembered. After each name was called, a rose or tulip was placed on the altar.
A luncheon followed the service.