Devastation remains inside Conway church damaged by 2017 tornado - Western Mass News - WGGB/WSHM


Devastation remains inside Conway church damaged by 2017 tornado

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(Western Mass News photo) (Western Mass News photo)

It was back in February 2017 when we first reported on the devastation left by a tornado in the town of Conway, particularly the severe damage to the United Congregational Church.

Today, the reverend of that church spoke exclusively with Western Mass News to offer an inside look at the devastation caused in their place of worship and what's next for this congregation.

With boarded windows, blue tarps on the roof, and a metal fence surrounding the outside of the Conway church bears the wounds left behind by a tornado on February 25, 2017.

"At first glance, it looks fixable to some people," said Rev. Candice Ashenden.
However, if you take a look inside, "the sanctuary is full of trash and insulation," Ashenden added.
The air smells of mold and if you look up, you can see the blue tarps on the roof.
That light shows just how far the bell tower has pulled away from the rest of the structure.

For the last year, the congregation has spent $300,000 to preserve the historic place of worship, but by the end of this summer. this will all be gone.
"They still are hoping and so this is our sort of saying 'This is really it.  We are going to have to bring the building down,'" Ashenden explained.
Ashenden told Western Mass News that the 30 member congregation is no stranger to setbacks, dating back to the church's beginning on the common in the 1700s.

"That building burned and then they built here and that building burned and this is building number three, so it's going to be our mission to build building four," Ashenden noted.
Ashenden said that the church received $1.5 million from their insurance company, with $100,000 of that to go to repaying a grant from the town's community preservation fund that allowed them to update the church in 2014.

This year marks the 250th anniversary of this church in this small town and while the walls may go, plans are already in the early stages for a new place to pray.
The large stained glass windows have been taken out of their places.  Those will likely be sold, but Ashenden said that they are going to save the small ones like this one to incorporate into their new space.
"We have spent this year agonizing over it yet moving to a place where we are beginning to dream about how move into the future," Ashenden said.

Copyright 2018 Western Mass News (Meredith Corporation).  All rights reserved.

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