OUR FACILITIES – INDOORS
Somers Congregational United Church of Christ has had four Meeting Houses. Our first two Meeting Houses were constructed at the corner of Springfield and Stebbins Roads, where the North Cemetery is today. Please see “Our History” for descriptions of them.
When our third Meeting House was constructed in 1842, the center of town had shifted to Main Street so this became the logical place to build. And there it stood strong for 170 years, the center of religious and social life on Main Street until our devastating fire on Jan. 1, 2012. After the fire, overwhelming opinion from church and town was that the fourth Meeting House should look like the third Meeting House. No one could imagine coming into town from any direction and not seeing the tall white bell tower, the four large fluted Ionic pillars and the granite steps leading up to the double doors.
The new steps which are again made of granitenow meet code. The granite came from Skyline Quarry in Stafford. As you go through the double doors, the narthex is a little bigger, this time with double central doors leading directly to the central aisle of the sanctuary. The third Meeting House had a door on each side of the narthex which originally led to the two aisles. In 1947 the inside of the sanctuary was changed to have a central aisle and two side aisles with two sections of pews instead of two aisles with three sections of pews.
As you enter the sanctuary you see the soaring coffered ceiling, the balcony around three sides, the arched chancel with a pulpit and a lectern and a beautiful wooden cross made by John Jones of our congregation out of beams salvaged from our third Meeting House.
Looking at the chancel, on the left side there is a small “Deacon’s Room” for preparing the communion elements. In the third Meeting House this area had first been the pastor’s office, then the food pantry and then a storage room. On the right side are double doors leading to the elevator, stairs and to the meeting room area.
The church is handicapped accessible with two elevators, one going to the balcony level. There is a ramp going to the chancel and spaces in the pew area for wheel chairs.
The architects for our fourth Meeting House were Clohessy Harris and Kaiser of Simsbury CT. Our construction manager was Petra Construction of North Haven CT.
Our church has had organ music since at least the mid 1800’s. Early organs were pump organs and plans for our third Meeting House show a small room for the organ pump in the Foundation Room. In 1925 Mrs. Ernest Fuller gave the church our first electrically operated organ in memory of her grandmother Mrs. Mabel Gager Kibbe. In 1970 that organ was replaced with a new organ built by Casavant Freres of St. Hyacinth, Quebec. At that time the organ console and choir were moved from the front of the church to the balcony. Our new tracker organ was built by Richards, Fowkes and Co. of Ooltewah, Tennessee. Organ pipes, console and choir are located in the south end of the balcony.
Our third Meeting House originally probably had clear glass windows in keeping with the plain habits of our Puritan ancestors. A renovation in 1892 replaced these with “opera” style glass – tinted glass with lead dividers. With some repair work over the years, these lasted until 2004 when the windows were all replaced in the same style by Stained Glass Resources of Hampden MA. The same company built the windows for our fourth Meeting House in the same style.
When the third Meeting House was being constructed, the Town of Somers contributed to the project with the understanding that the Foundation Room would be used for town meetings and other such gatherings. This continued to be the practice until the current town hall was built in about 1950. The Foundation Room of our fourth Meeting House gained a higher ceiling when the foundation was dug lower than that for our third Meeting House. It has four support pillars unlike the previous room which had several pillars. In the south east corner there is a “bride’s room”. The middle of the south wall has a storage room for chairs, tables etc. and the south west corner has a stair well to access the narthex. The window wells of the Foundation Room are made from granite blocks salvaged from the third Meeting House. The Foundation Room and adjoining kitchen are well used for large meetings, church suppers, Sunday coffee hour and many other church and community functions.
The Bugbee Center
The Bugbee Center was built in 1959 in response to rapid growth of the church and church school. It houses classrooms and meeting rooms, a kitchen and a chapel. The building has also been used through the years by the Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, Somers Women’s Club, AA, the Somers Cooperative Preschool and an assortment of other civic organizations. The Bugbee Center is named in honor of Emily C. Bugbee, a lifelong citizen of Somers and member of Somers Congregational Church, who was our church school superintendent for many years. It was Emily’s vision of what was possible that made the classrooms, meeting space and recreation area in this building a reality.
The Somers Cooperative Preschool has been housed in the Bugbee Center for over 35 years. The school originally used two rooms on the second floor, and relocated to space renovated with their particular needs in mind in 1999. Their space is now completely accessible, with two rest rooms sized for children and a direct entrance and exit to the outside play area. With a kitchen just off the classroom, this is a great space for the Preschool.
The other side of the hallway is occupied on one end by a meeting room in which the church’s Women’s Fellowship meets. They make use of storage space and the kitchen as well. Champ’s Place, our food pantry, is located just down the hall. The food pantry is named in memory of Gene Champion a member and Deacon of the church who was the first attendant to have regular pantry hours and sought ways to further help those in need in our community. Through the years other church members have served as attendants, Helen Devio, Bob and Pat Robinson, Kathleen Eastwood and Polly McCranie among them. Kathy Moulton and Kit Devlin are the current co-coordinators of Champ’s Place and under their guidance the program has expanded. Several members of the church and community donate many hours to serve the needs of some 30 to 50 individuals from Somers each week.
Bugbee Center Chapel
The chapel on the second floor houses two very important art collections belonging to the church. The first is a series of murals depicting the life of Christ, created by Priscilla Souder, a church member. Each of the panels in the series depicts several parts of the life of Christ. Mrs. Souder completed the series over a ten year period, and one can see the changes in style and material used. Several church members were models for the series, though their identities have been masked in order to keep the emphasis of the mural on Christ. The stained glass windows in the chapel are also important works of art. The first one created depicts Jesus as a young boy learning the carpenter trade from Joseph. This window was designed and created by Deacon Bob Pixley, and is based on a statue located in Enfield, CT. The rest of the windows were designed and created by the team of Joyce Conroy and Neil Connell, both members of the church. Each depicts a Biblical story. The most stunning window produced for the church by these two artists is the Nativity window which originally was located in the chapel but was moved at the time of the 1999 expansion to the stairwell on the landing between the first and second floors of the new section.
In 1999, with a growing congregation, we built an addition joining the Meeting House with the Bugbee Center. Although the addition and the Bugbee Center were not destroyed in the fire they had considerable smoke and water damage and as a consequence were renovated with safety and security code updates added.
The addition contains our church offices, a large meeting room, our child care room, Pilgrim Hall and a conference room plus an elevator and restrooms.
A small building called the chapel or Pilgrim Hall was built across the street from the church in 1858. This was used for meetings, church school and youth group meetings. In 1947 when the Town of Somers wished to build a town hall, the selectmen offered and the church accepted an offer to move the chapel onto a foundation on the west side of the church in consideration of a deed to the Town of Somers for the land on which the chapel stood. Pilgrim Hall became a meeting room and the space beneath it became our church kitchen. After the fire which damaged Pilgrim Hall, that area was restored as a parlor, side by side with a small conference room.
We know our second Meeting House had a bell because we know that the Kibbe family, who lived near the church, had the responsibility of ringing the bell at regular times during the day. We don’t know what happened to that bell. In 1850, eight years after our third Meeting House was built, we purchased a new bell from the Meneely Foundry of West Troy, NY. It was cast of bronze, 990 pounds in weight and had an embossed emblem on its side of an arm holding a hammer surrounded by the motto “Percute Dolce Cano” meaning “Strike Me and I Will Sing Sweetly”. This was transported by train to Springfield MA and brought to Somers by wagon and oxen. The oxen were then used to raise the bell to the bell tower. The bell for our fourth Meeting House, which is a replica of the previous one, was cast by Verdin Bells and Clock Co. of Cincinnati Ohio, and was transported by truck and raised into place with a crane on May 1, 2013.
The motto of the Meneely bell was cut out, framed in a shadow box and hung in a place of honor in our narthex.
No matter who you are or where you are on life’s journey,
you are welcome at our fourth Meeting House.