The organ is in pieces right now but soon it will be back together and sounding like new.
LANESBOROUGH, Mass. — It was in 1765 when Lanesborough officially became a town. And soon after, a group of local farmers decided they needed a church.
St. Luke's Episcopal was founded in the living room of William Bradley's farmhouse on Oct. 2, 1767.
The congregation remains an integral part of the town will celebrate the milestone of 250 years on Sunday, June 25.
"We have planned a gala service," said Phil Allen, who is coordinating fundraising efforts. "The bishop is coming and we invited notables from all around and the town. It's going to be a big thing. We expect 200 or so people."
The bicenquinquagenary celebration starts at 10 a.m. and includes a baptism, confirmation, and reaffirmation. Then, after the ceremony, there will be refreshments on the lawn, a guest organ player showing off the restored instrument, and the choir has been practicing an anthem to sing.
As the church enters its next 250 years, it is preparing for the decades to come with the restoration of windows in the 181-year-old Old Stone Church and an 1862 Johnson organ that is currently being put back together after refurbishment.
St. Luke's has been saving money for a few years to do the two projects, each of which cost an estimated $70,000. The congregation is also seeking a state grant to help with the windows while at the same time launching a fundraising drive.
The organ was built for the church in 1862 and is one of the few hand-pumped organs remaining.
"It is one of three or four that are still hand pumped in churches. The others have all been either electrified so you don't have to pump them anymore or they've been changed and upgraded to more pipes so they are not in their original condition," Allen said. "This is one of the few that is in the original shape that it was built in."
The organ sits in pieces as it waits for Czelusniak et Dugal Inc. of Northampton, which has had the pieces all winter, to put it back together. The organ is expected to be like new again before the Old Stone Church is reopened for the summer. St. Luke's has already scheduled an array of concerts for the summer and the organ is expected to be in place within the next week or so.
The windows are the next in line, and the hope is to fix them next summer. A number of the small, diamond-shaped pieces need replacing, all of them need glazing and painting, and some of the window framings are in need of repairs.
Allen says he is applying for a grant from the Massachusetts Historical Commission to help with that cost. The church is looking for help for both projects. It will be sending out fundraising letters in the coming weeks, and has already asked the membership to chip in.
The church is listed on the Massachusetts Register of Historic Places and has a storied history. The congregation was formed in 1767 and the Rev. Am Andrews became the first rector. It was 18 years later when Bradley donated a piece of land, directly next to the Bradley Farm, and a wooden building was erected.
"Eventually, they built a building on this location that was wood and had balconies on three of the sides. They tore that down. They had Easter service in here and then tore it down the next day and by Christmas they had this building built. It has been here since 1836," Sally Allen, the congregation's clerk, said.
In 1831, S.B. Shaw became the rector and, on Easter Sunday 1836, the communicants left the service, returned the next day and tore down the original structure. On Christmas Day, the Old Stone Church was fully built and opened.
The church didn't have central heat -- still doesn't -- but it did have two wood stoves. Small barns were built out back for congregants to tie their horses up. Large stones that sit outside of the current structure were used for carriages, to let people in and out.
In 1858, lightning struck the church tower, causing an entire wall to bow out when it pulled away from the balcony. That bowing out remains today, unchanged.
"Back in those days you bought your pew. We still have one family, one of the original founders, and they can tell you exactly what pews are theirs," Sally Allen said.
In 1875, the Old Stone Church became the first one in New England to feature a Christmas tree inside, and somewhat of a tradition has continued on as the church puts on an annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony for the town every year.
The congregation replaced the bell in the 1880s. And that, too, became a tale. A severe storm had knocked the previous bell off, and it was never found. The congregation ordered a new one and it when it was set to be delivered, they all had gathered that afternoon to install it. But the train it was on didn't stop in Pittsfield as it should have.
The bell ended up in Springfield, and the group had to travel there to get it. When they returned, they started to lift the bell into place. Then the ropes snapped, the bell fell, and the horses ran home. The Allens say the farmers believed Friday evening was "the devil's playground" and put the project off until the next day. That bell is still the one that calls people to worship on a Sunday morning.
Sally Allen said at one point in history the land was a graveyard and the bodies were moved to another cemetery, which had led some parishioners to comment that the building could be haunted. Allen doesn't think so, though some of the stories could support that belief. It is said that in 1842 the rector's son, who had been the organist, died. Shortly after a bird flew into the church and found dead on the keys of the organ.
The church stopped being used full time in 1898. The Eddy family had built St. Luke's Parish Hall, farther south on Route 7. It had electricity, bathrooms and, maybe most importantly, heat. What started as a parish hall soon became the church. But, the Old Stone Church wasn't abandoned. Each summer, St. Luke's moves into the Old Stone Church for services and then goes back to the parish hall during the winter.
The congregation continues to maintain the historic Old Stone Church.
"Back in the '70s, the whole building went into disrepair and it wasn't able to be used," Phil Allen said.
There was a major renovation then to get it up to snuff. Later a stone mason repaired the exterior. And about a decade ago, the bell tower was restored.
"We have been working continually," Phil Allen said.
Now, the building is "pretty sound, really. Since it doesn't have heat it winters better than buildings with temperature changing up and down. It changes slowly in the winter instead of fluctuating fast," Phil Allen said.
But, the maintenance work never ends. The top of that to-do list is the windows and the organ.
"I'm amazed at how many parts are in the organ," Phil Allen said when looking over the various pieces before the contractor arrived to start putting it all together.
Those who originally incorporated the church were very involved with the town. So while many things have changed over the last 250 years, St. Luke's continues to follow in those footsteps.
"We are very much involved with the town. We marched in the Memorial Day parade. We every week contribute to the veteran's food pantry. We help with St. Stephen's table," Phil Allen said, with Sally adding that the congregation holds the tree lighting and special Masses for veterans and first responders, and runs a program to give children Christmas presents.
"We are very much into being a healing ministry, living up to our name of St. Luke who was the great physician. We are very much into healing," Sally Allen said.
iBerkshires.com welcomes critical, respectful dialogue; please keep comments focused on the issues and not on personalities. Profanity, obscenity, racist language and harassment are not allowed. iBerkshires reserves the right to ban commenters or remove commenting on any article at any time. Concerns may be sent to email@example.com.
iBerkshires.com welcomes critical, respectful dialogue. Name-calling, personal attacks, libel, slander or foul language is not allowed. All comments are reviewed before posting and will be deleted or edited as necessary.
Comments are closed for this article. If you would like to contribute information on this article, e-mail us at info@iBerkshires.com
Homelessness Advisory Panel Reprimanded For Internal Disrespect
By Brittany PolitoiBerkshires Staff
Chairwoman Kim Borden warns advisory committee members to be on their best behavior after 'inappropriate' communications.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. -- The Homelessness Advisory Committee reportedly experienced recent issues with "highly inappropriate behavior and communication, threats and the spreading of misinformation" and Chairwoman Kim Borden is not having it.
At the third meeting as a newly established committee on Wednesday, Borden shared her thoughts on the current climate of the committee.
"In the last month, I've been subjected to highly inappropriate behavior and communication, which has include bullying threats and the spreading of misinformation," Borden said. "At this time, I will not identify the specific depict individuals as I do not believe in public shaming. This is not what I signed up for and more importantly, I do not believe that other committee members should be subjected to this extraordinarily destructive dynamic."
This type of communication or behavior may result in a request that appropriate steps be taken to remove the person or persons creating a hostile and/or unproductive environment, she said.
At this time, no committee members are being removed. If any are removed, they will be replaced with individuals with an "appropriate level of civility and a desire to work together as a team and respect others."
Wahconah's Maria Gamberoni Wednesday scored her 11th point of the night less than five minutes into the game to reach the 1,000-point plateau for her career en route to a 63-13 win over Mount Everett. click for more
On Tuesday night, the Berkshire County athletic directors released a tentative schedule for the first full week of games and meets for schools that are fielding competitive teams this winter. click for more
The town's volunteer fire department has been filling bellies and raising spirits at the holidays for nearly 50 years.
The COVID-19 pandemic curtailed its plans to do the latter. There was no way the firefighters were going to stop doing the former.
click for more
The board of directors of the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association Friday voted to start the winter sports season no earlier than Dec. 14 and to move wrestling to the spring in hopes that the sport will have a path to competitions later in 2021. click for more