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Slatersville Congregational Church turns 175 years old

November 16, 2013

Robert Eggleston, of Carlisle, PA, drove all night Friday to attend the 175th anniversary of Slatersville Congregational Church in North Smithfield this weekend. He grew up in North Smithfield, where his family was active in the congregation. He also sang in the choir and was a Sunday School teacher at the church before moving away. (Photo by Ernest A. Brown)

NORTH SMITHFIELD - The Slatersville Congregational Church has a lot to celebrate. One hundred and seventy five years, to be exact.

One hundred and seventy five years of a historic building that has hosted community worship services, baptisms and weddings and Sunday school. But most of all, 175 years of coming together week after week to celebrate a faith that has built and bound a community.

This weekend, parishioners of Slatersville Congregational Church of the United Church of Christ are gathering for the culminating events of this year’s commemoration of the 175th anniversary of the church building with a special worship service and re-dedication of the church’s historic sanctuary on Sunday.

The anniversary weekend began Friday night with a family fun night that included a pizza and games for the kids. The celebration continues Sunday with a special worship service at 10 a.m. featuring special music and guests, including Anne Holst, a direct descendent of John Slater, who started the mill village in 1806. A special message from former pastor George Harvey will also be read.

The highlight of the service will be a special re-dedication of the church building.

“The rededication is really a responsive prayer for how we have used this house for worship, to give comfort and to teach and guide our children,” said the Rev. Eileen Morris, pastor of Slatersville Congregational Church.

When the church was built back in 1838 it was done so on the backs of young boys who worked in the nearby mills.

“For this 175th year we are rededicating and giving the gift of this church to our children for the next 175 years,” Morris said.

The Slatersville Congregational Church congregation is actually 197 years old, but the church, with its tall spire, facing a beautiful common lined with trees and surrounded by 19th century houses tucked neatly behind a white picket fence, is 175 years old this year. The first church service ever held in the Slatersville Congregational Church took place on Sunday, Nov. 2, 1838.

That year, Martin Van Buren was president, Samuel Morse's telegraph system was demonstrated for the first time and the population of North

Smithfiel's Slatersville village was less than 500 people.

Since then the picturesque church, located on the common in the center of Slatersville, has been the spiritual home to thousands of area residents, a cherished town landmark, and a community gathering place hosting a variety of local groups and public events.

The church community kicked off this year’s 175th anniversary of the church building more than a year ago with a $175,000 capital campaign to help pay for a much needed exterior facelift of the church. As an historic building, the church’s exterior had weathered many a storm, including the hurricane of 1938, which toppled its steeple. After a great deal of research the church selected a permanent paint-like product called Rhino Shield to restore and preserve the appearance of the historic building for many years to come. With that process complete, attention was turned to replacing the large 50-panel double-hung windows that were last replaced in 1938.

Thanks to a hugely successful campaign that helped raise more than $200,000, that work, as well as the installation of new energy efficient lighting, has been completed.

“Everything we’ve done over the past year and a half has been done with energy efficiency and longevity in mind,” Morris said.

“We have spent the last several years beautifying our church from the inside out by growing the congregation and expanding its outreach, missions and caring programs,” Morris said. “This was the year we focused on beautifying the church from the outside in and welcoming the broader community of North Smithfield to join us.”

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