Upham's Corner Online

First Parish Church Holds Ground Breaking

Posted: August 2, 2011     Nancy J Conrad

Arthur Lavoie, minister of First Parish Church, served as the Master of Ceremonies for the Phase I Restoration Project ground breaking held August 2, 2011.  Distinguished guests included Mayor Thomas M. Menino, keynote speaker, State Senator Jack Hart, Tina Chery from the Louis D. Brown Peace Institute, Jeff Gonyeau from Historic Boston and Carol Johnson from the Henderson Foundation.

The weather was spectacular with bright sun illuminating the morning's events and Rev. Lavoie began with prayer: 

"In the spirit of life, God of many names, we have gathered here today to continue the work begun in 1630 when our ancestors first landed here and founded this community of Dorchester.  We continue this legacy today by moving to restore and renovate this grand building that will continue to serve the community of Dorchester."

What is the scope of the restoration work being done?  Read this detailed article about the four-phase $5 million project
Mayor Menino delighted the crowd with war stories from 1993 when he first ran in the Mayoral race, when the first debates were held in the First Parish social hall.  He also could not bypass mentioning the famous "meatloaf" dinners held annually as part of the Dorchester Day Parade activities.First Parish Church Ground Breaking 8/2/11

"This church has a rich past and a brighter future.  First Parish Church is not just the oldest congregation in Boston.  The church also serves as a place for meetings and events, and it is an important historical treasure of the City of Boston. As Mayor, I am committed to maintaining Boston's historic and cultural sites." 

Mayor Menino asked the crowd for a continuing commitment to the restoration work. "We can't just leave here and say what a great event we had.  We need to stay involved.  We need to help find out where the resources are to make sure we are able to raise the funds to do the restoration as we go forward." 

Sentor Jack Hart praised Mayor Menino for his total commitment to the City of Boston and thanked the members of First Parish for their efforts.  "If we work together with the aid of city, state and federal grants and some local fund raising, we can accomplish this task.  I am willing to help to do that along the way."

He reminded the group of a bumper sticker that read:  "Boston - Where it all Began" and suggested that it read "Dorchester - It all began on Meetinghouse Hill."
"It is our responsibility," Sen. Hart said, "as citizens, as parishioners and as a government to see that historic places such as this magnificent church are preserved in perpetuity." 

The next speaker was Carol Johnson, Chair of the Board of Designators at the Henderson Foundation, which recently contributed $100,000 towards Phase I of the project. 

"The Henderson foundation focuses on the preservation of the visual quality and character in the City of Boston, as was Mr. Henderson's wish in his will.  What better place could we put Mr. Henderson's money to work than this one?"

Rev. Lavoie introduced Jeffrey Gonyeau, Senior Program Manager of Historic Boston and thanked HBI for their continued help.  "Historic Boston was instrumental in helping us do the early phase of this work - removing and restoring the bell tower which was threatening to fall into the building."

Mr. Gonyeau emphasized the multi-faceted character of First Parish's contributions to Dorchester - the architectural quality of the building, worship service on Sunday, important social services and community programming, all of which makes First Parish valuable to the community.

First Parish Church Ground Breaking 8/2/11 First Parish Church Ground Breaking 8/2/11 First Parish Church Ground Breaking 8/2/11

Rev. Lavoie introduced the final speaker:  Tina Chery, Executive Director of the Lewis D Brown Peace Institute.  "When I first moved to Dorchester about six years ago, I was deeply inspired by her work with families who have been torn apart by violence in our community, by her commitment to peace and peacemaking.  We have developed a community partnership over these several years.  I am privileged and honored to have her appear with us this morning."

[Tina Chery's address covered separately]

Ground breaking ceremonies are important, but not because any ground will be broken.  Yet everyone looks forward to this moment.  Six people - six shovels - posing for photos.  And for the record, one last mega-photo of everyone in attendance on the church steps.  Thus ended the inauguration of work towards the completion of Phase I of the Restoration Project.


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