I'm not a religious person. Or I should say I'm not a person that goes in much for organized religion but I'm really sad that the West Cummington Congregational Church burned to the ground this past Sunday. It was a remarkable place. The perfect little country church. Small, funky chapel sitting on a hill in the woods, its impossibly uncomfortable 170 year old pews worn smooth by generations of believers.
I lived for many years just down the hill from the place. I could see it from my window. I gave my daughter her religious upbringing there. It was tiny congregation of mostly very old people. I eventually joined the Ladies Benevolent Society. The average age of the members was 82. After I left town, I've heard many more younger people did too. We held dinners in the community house that thankfully survived since it too was at the bottom of hill, far from the fire.
The congregation will of course survive. Just as they fiercely deflected calls to merge with the larger church in the main village, I know they will find a way to rebuild the chapel and keep the heart of West Cummington thriving. Still, it's hard to imagine the tiny village without that old church on the hill watching over it. For the first time I'm glad I can't really go back there anymore. Seeing the empty space would break my heart. [Graphic via church website]
Local news coverage of the fire is here and here