WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. - The First Congregational Church of Williamstown needs millions of dollars in repairs.

“To me, this building in many ways represents the community,” said Susan Yates, president of the Williamstown Meetinghouse Preservation Fund.

What You Need To Know

  • The First Congregational Church of Williamstown's Building Preservation Fund is seeking to raise more than $6 million for repairs

  • The Preservation Fund, the nonprofit started in 2019 and not associated with any religious part of this building, plans to address the leaking steeple roof this summer with more than $630,000 already raised

  • An assessment was done in January of 2019, which found more than $2 million in needed building repairs and upgrades for ADA compliance. The price went up as construction costs rose during the pandemic

  • The building standing today is Williamstown’s third meetinghouse built in 1869 after the first two burnt down; it was renovated in 1914 to look how it does currently

Yates said the building has a historic importance to the town.

“Back in 1765, when the town was founded, you had to have a settled minister," Yates said. "Then with a minister, the town had to raise funds, build a meetinghouse and that meetinghouse was a seat of governance, as well as the community center and a church.”

Now, the preservation fund is raising money for the iconic building which was rebuilt twice before 1869 due to fires. The current structure needs a lot of work. Yates said an initial cost assessment of more than $2 million skyrocketed as construction costs rose during the pandemic.

“The price tag priced out by a construction manager was suddenly $6.4 million," Yates said. "That brings us to the challenges and the exciting opportunities that we have today.”

“In a time when churches are dying or merging or seeing fewer people attending, I think it's a really wonderful time for us to be thinking about what can a church be that is meaningful,” said church moderator Betsy Burris.

In a tour of the building on Wednesday, Burris and Yates discussed the planned future of the space. The two highlighted ideas such as a community center for all ages, the ability to provide services for underserved residents and hosting community conversations about social issues among many other community-oriented plans.

“We see our spiritual purpose as more than just Sunday worship," Burris said. "I think we as a group believe that we as human beings are, if not obligated, at least devoted to figuring out how to make connections beyond our walls so that everyone can feel more human and more loved.”

The preservation has the money, more than $630,000, to move forward with fixing their leaking steeple roof this summer. Yates said through additional fundraising campaigns, as well as their ability to ask for state and federal dollars, she's confident they’ll be able to make the needed changes to preserve the building for years to come.

“We feel that we can be successful in raising the money we need to make this a better space, more welcoming space, more capable space to meet the needs of the community,” Yates said.