By Ann Needle
Next week, after five years of fundraising and construction, the First Parish Church of Stow and Acton debuts a new look. It is a new space that accommodates the growth of FPC’s congregation, and comfortably fits the Church’s role as a community landmark and resource.
Construction on FPC’s addition is just about complete, with the Church hosting open houses for members and
the community on September 3 and 6 (see the Calendar for details). Visitors will find a new building, along with renovations to the historic campus, that should give the growing FPC congregation and Stow’s community groups the space they need, explained FPC’s Roy Miller.
“Our membership has swelled since the 1980s,” he said. “And so many groups rely on our space, [including] the Food Pantry, Senior Meals.”
This project is the latest phase of FPC’s effort to accommodate +30 year of growing membership. According to the Church, when it began to grow substantially back in the 1980s, FPC built an addition on the back of the original building. In 1996 the FPC built Fellowship Hall, a church and community center that hosts events such as the Church’s Coffee House series and religious education classes. The FPC has been in its current space since 1848, but has been in Stow since 1685.
Today, the updates quickly become evident with a drive into the parking lot. The old, pock-marked tar was repaved and new parking spaces added. Miller noted that the FPC also added extra spaces on the side of the church facing Randall Library, inviting library patrons and others to park there when needed.
The addition not only connects the main church with Fellowship Hall, but “it gives an open and welcoming feel when you walk in — everything is right in front of you,” Miller said. The glass exterior of the two-story connector gives that air of openness. Looking to the old carriage house building to the right of Fellowship Hall, it is evident that architect Deborah Fein-Brug incorporated some of its key features (such as the wooden beams) into the new structure, he pointed out.
Within the doors, the two-story atrium connects all of the FPC campus, from the sanctuary upstairs to the vestibule below and the Hall to the right of the entrance. Miller stressed that it offers a big improvement in accessibility and safety.
There is the elevator that can bring anyone upstairs to the sanctuary, replacing a complex handicap entrance. The administrative offices, which were in the addition at the back of the main church, now are located in the new connector, giving employees a direct view of who is approaching the front door. And, the connector assures children attending religious education at Fellowship Hall on Sundays are not dashing across the parking lot from the main building. Miller remarked of that situation, “It seemed like the running of the bulls.”