The recent loss of the First Baptist Church of Lebanon NH, just off of the town's center, has been covered in the local news with dramatic shots of several story-high flames and tireless firefighters, as well as before-and-after photos that show both the beauty and the devastation of the 156 year-old historical landmark.
This New Year's Eve morning, something quieter was going on at the scene on School Street. About 100 Upper Valley neighbors--including some members of the congregation--gathered to watch. Two tall cranes worked in tandem to hoist two workers to the very top of the steeple. Its removal, bit by bit as it turned out, was a first step in securing and removing the church's 1600-pound bell, still hanging in the wreckage.
The press was there, interviewing people who were talking among themselves, taking out and pointing their cameras toward the action. It was slow work and the crowd was patient. At the moment when the tip of the steeple was freed and lowered to the ground (see the featured photo above) there was a faint ripple of applause. Mostly, though, people stood respectfully in the cold, witnessing the loss to the community of Lebanon.
Dennis Merrihew attended the First Baptist Church in Lebanon for over 50 years. While the damage to the interior is still undetermined, Merrihew lamented the destruction, including the probable loss of the church's pipe organ and other musical instruments.
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Susan B. Apel, writer, ArtfulEdge