|The Lower Waterford Community Church with its Memory Tree lit.|
Memory Tree Ceremony Start of Historic Birthday
WATERFORD – Members of the Congregational Church invite the public to help kick off the 160th birthday of its historic edifice during the annual Memory Tree Lighting Ceremony Sunday, December 2 at 6 p.m.
Under the direction of Rev. Ann Hockridge, the annual observance heralds the start of the Christmas season in the historic village of Lower Waterford. This year it also includes an unveiling of planned events to celebrate the iconic building whose image has appeared on countless postcards, greeting cards, paintings, and even in a national TV advertisement.
“Faith is a continual act of renewal,” Hockridge noted. “The acts of members to preserve this structure as a community resource for future generations are a constant inspiration.”
|Inside the church, at Christmas.|
The symbolic tree lights honor the memories of people who made a difference in the lives of those around them. The church will print a commemorative program with their names for sharing with those who attend the ceremony.
Immediately following the observance, guests will socialize in the sanctuary with warm refreshments and music of the season. They will also hear of plans to commemorate the church building’s construction that took place in the second half of 1859 after a disastrous fire leveled the property at the corner of Lower Waterford Road and Maple Street.
Under the direction of then deacon and master joiner Francis Rice Carpenter, church members constructed an edifice in the Greek Revival style with such design elements as square-head openings over doors and windows and capped with pediment tops.
The Lower Waterford church was largely built by repurposing 1818 timbers from an original meetinghouse on Old County Road South near Mad Brook. Deacon Abial Richardson, one of Waterford’s original settlers, oversaw that construction on his property.
His portrait hangs in the church foyer along with other significant Waterford artifacts made by church members. Two of William “Red” Morrison miniatures of the church and of a Victorian house, previously exhibited at the Fairbanks Museum, and Windsor chairs made by Passumpsic farmer Charles D. Harris, father of Dr. Charles E. Harris, author of the only history book on Lower Waterford to date, are on display, along with painted pews from Richardson’s meetinghouse.
The new church was officially consecrated on January 11, 1860. Today, the Lower Waterford congregation is yoked with Third Congregational Church in East Saint Johnsbury. Rev. Hockridge pastors both with services alternating between the two locations.
A long-standing village tradition, the Memory Tree is an opportunity to reminisce about those who made a positive impact. Individuals who want to participate in this ceremony may submit names “In Memory of,” “In honor of,” or privately as “Loved ones.”
The deadline for receiving names for the remembrance program is Friday, Nov. 30. Donations are welcome. Please mail submissions to: Congregational Church, P.O. Box 111, Lower Waterford, VT 05848.
[Photos and text by Helen C. Pike]