Spirits up as Franklinville church building comes down

Demolition crews were working at the site of Franklinville United Methodist Church last week. (PJ Ward-Brown/North State Journal)

FRANKLINVILLE – Members of the Franklinville United Methodist Church are saving what they can as the church is demolished following a wall collapse July 6.

Emergency crews responded to the Franklinville United Methodist Church on South Main Street after a report of a commercial fire. The arriving units didn’t find a fire but did find that one of the walls of the church had collapsed.

Initial reports from fire crews were that the collapse may have been caused by an explosion from a gas leak, but the explosion theory was quickly ruled out as the cause as the gas leak was believed to have been triggered by an air-conditioning unit falling onto a gas line during the wall collapse.

The next day, two additional sections of the wall also collapsed.

“This was expected to happen,” said Rev. Michele Hill in an email. “Those falls opened the gaping hole more and took two very old and beautiful stained-glass windows with them.”

The congregation isn’t letting not having an available building keep them from their usual worship services.

“(On July 9) we worshiped in the local park with members from several other United Methodist Churches joining us for support, as well as people from the community,” Hill said. “We shared Holy Communion, and it was a lovely experience.”

In upcoming weeks, the church will be meeting at the Franklinville Diner, just a short walking distance from the church.

Many early records for the church have been lost to time, but according to the Town of Franklinville website the church’s history dates to 1839, when Elisha Coffin deeded 1.64 acres to “Trustees for the Methodist Episcopal Church … who shall erect thereon a house or place of worship.”

That’s old enough to pre-date the town itself which was incorporated from a village to a town by the state legislature in 1847. The organs and chimes were added in 1953.

With that much history in one building the entire town is affected by the church’s demolition.

“This church held memories for all: baptisms, recitals, confirmations, weddings, graduations, funerals and so much more. The church was used by the townspeople in many ways through the years,” Hill said.

Crews have been able to demolish the entire sanctuary, but not before Franklinville firefighters were able to save the baptismal font, the Bible, the church bell (which they rang one last time before taking it down), the cross from the steeple, and several stained-glass windows.

A time capsule exists under the steeple that dates to the late 1800s, but church officials aren’t sure if they will ever be able to retrieve it.

Hill continues to express her gratitude to the first responders as well as the community.

“We are so grateful for all the first responders who were there that night, specifically the Franklinville Fire Department who has gone was beyond the call of duty,” she said.

By Scott Pelkey