By ALIZA GRAY, for THE LACONIA DAILY SUN
LACONIA — The Laconia Congregational Church, The United Church of Christ, has been a fixture in downtown Laconia for over 185 years. However, in recent years the church had been showing its age, and it was decided that there was a need for some renovations. A small group of church leaders sat down and began the planning process for renovating their beloved church they've all come to call home.That was about five years and over $850,000 in donations ago, and now The United Church of Christ leaders and members are celebrating the vast improvements that have been made. The first major project that was undertaken was the church's kitchen. It was dated and nonfunctional for the many dinners and events the church hosts throughout the year. During the winter of 2014, the kitchen received a total overhaul, with modern appliances and new flooring, making it a far more efficient working space. During this time, other smaller alterations were made to the building, such as replacing wooden panels on doors with windows. These windows brightened up a once gloomy interior and allowed those outside the church to look in and see the welcoming atmosphere.
A few more significant renovations were made to the church as well. One was the connection of the church itself to the church offices and educational rooms through a bridge on the second story. This allows churchgoers to move easily between the two buildings and school children to go from Mass to Sunday School without having to go outside. Another was the creation of the "community way," a path and an indoor space that was created with the safety of elderly and disabled church members in mind. The indoor space gives people a place to connect before and after Mass, while being handicap-accessible with power doors and easy access to the elevator. Outside, a courtyard was created to welcome people into the church. The space is lined with bricks, many of them personalized by church members to celebrate loved ones.
A leader in the renovations, The Rev. Dr. Warren H. Bouton, said the upgrades were a necessity and that the project was "fun some days and challenging others, but always worth it." Bouton has been a pastor for over 37 years, and in the Granite State for the past 12, and is planning to retire at the end of July. He said that seeing all these renovations come fruition was the "best way" to round out his career.
The public is invited to see the changes Thursday, June 30, at 4:30 p.m. as the church hosts an open house. There will be a building dedication, tours, music and refreshments.
The Rev. Dr. Warren H. Bouton, senior pastor at the United Church of Christ in Laconia, stands in the newly renovated "community way" courtyard, which leads to the entrance of the church. (Aliza Gray/for The Laconia Daily Sun)