Updated: Feb 22
The most recent decades of Waterbury Center Community Church (WCCC) history are built on foundations formed by members over the 187 years of organized worship in the Federal-style brick building on Vermont Route 100. Many of the traditional events and outreach efforts made by this church community have origins that are decades and, in a few cases, centuries-old, while more recent gatherings and mission efforts reflect the congregation’s efforts to grow and evolve as a supportive Christian presence in our local community.
Past histories note that local Methodists gathered at members’ homes to attend worship meetings led by itinerant ministers called “circuit riders” and local elders as early as 1800. These services were organized for several decades before the worshippers decided to build the structure that continues to serve WCCC to this day.
The building, completed in 1833 and described as a Methodist Chapel, was originally a single-story structure with two front entrances and a gallery along three walls of the sanctuary. Later in that century, renovations included the addition of a large bronze bell and the division of the interior into two stories (1858). Upper floor sanctuary alterations included the installation of stained-glass memorial windows in 1894 and the original pine box pews were updated with more modern trim and false wood graining “faux bois” surfaces to emulate more expensive materials. During the 20th and 21st centuries, the lower floor has been maintained and updated to serve the needs of WCCC. The floor plan currently includes a front entrance hall with a chairlift to the sanctuary, a pastor’s office, and relocated bathroom, a fully renovated kitchen, classroom space, and a fellowship hall. The building was listed on the National Register for Historic Places in 1978.
In 1928, local Baptists vacated their building (the former Grange Hall), and the two congregations joined to become Waterbury Center Community Church. WCCC was affiliated with the Troy Conference of the United Methodist Church until 2010 when Methodist conferences were reorganized to improve ministry and more efficiently use resources. WCCC is now one of 113 churches within the Green Mountain District of the New England Conference.
WCCC has hosted weekly worship services, baptisms, weddings, funerals, and served as a meeting place for other organizations throughout its history. WCCC leadership committees that have actively supported missions and daily operations include the Administrative Council, Lay Leadership, Worship, Missions, Music, Church Life, Ladies Aide, Trustees, Finance, Staff Parish Relations, and Fun Faithful Folks, a group begun in 2007 to create crafts together and raise funds, decorate events, and share with others. Members of these committees work together to advance the missions of WCCC, and they have frequently served on multiple committees, often with contemporaneous terms.
Ministers that have served WCCC during the twenty-first century include Joy Lowenthal (1999-2006) and Assistant Tresita Beach (2002), Cheol-Hee (Charlie) Yang (2007-2009), John and Patrice Goodwin (2009-2012), SanChurl Bae (2012-2016), John H.D. Lucy (2016-2020) and Shirley Nolan (2020-). Many pastors have concurrently served two congregations – a common means to serve small churches with limited resources. In 2019, WCCC ended the year with 67 members.
Worship services, supplemented with activities often involving food, have included Shrove Tuesday/Ash Wednesday services with a pancake supper and service, ecumenical Easter sunrise services on Blush Hill followed by breakfasts led and hosted by different local congregations each year, All Saints' Day, when families light a memorial candle and receive a piece of the church vine (the “family plant”) to keep or to pass on to others as a symbol of the connection of life and death, Christmas Eve silent communion services with the sanctuary decorated by wreaths and a tree provided by members, and New Year’s Eve watch night services. The 175th anniversary of WCCC was celebrated in August 2008 with exhibits, an updated history booklet, the creation of a quilted wall hanging, a picnic, and a Heritage Sunday service to commemorate this milestone.
Music has been important in all events and organists have enhanced worship services throughout the years. When longtime organist Alice Sweet retired in 2000, Ken Scott took on the task for several years, followed by Beverly Newton Wells (2004-2012) and, most recently, Dan Krymkowski, who shared his varied musical talents with the congregation from 2004 until 2019. WCCC carolers, both young and old, visit elders in homes and senior living homes each December to offer favorite carols and hymns of the Advent season.
Sunday School programs for WCCC children began in 1869 and have been integral to WCCC missions until the last several years. Sunday School participation has declined since 2000, with fewer children regularly in attendance. Despite this trend, teachers have adapted activities and materials to reach the children who attend with age-appropriate activities that follow the Christian seasonal lectionary with related mission and craft projects, Easter Egg hunts, and outings to parks and playgrounds. Mission projects led by the Sunday School have included UNICEF and New York Methodist Hospital Red Stocking campaigns. The Sunday School also hosted Valentine’s Day and Halloween lunches for the congregation for many years. The children and their teachers decorated the fellowship hall, shared fun menu items that they made together, and gave homemade gifts to their guests.
Youth groups have actively participated in the life of WCCC. Youth members from 7th to 12th grade in the combined communities of Waterbury and Waterbury Center met twice a month until 2006. Service projects included 30 Hour Famine for World Vision and provided meals to those in need. They also attended Youth '03, the international gathering for young people and youth leaders to grow in faith, that was held in Knoxville, Tennessee in 2003.
In recent years, WCCC has supported Church World Service kits and blankets, Winter Clothes Drives, the local food shelf, CROP Walk, the local Good Neighbor Fund, One Great Hour of Sharing-UMCOR, Habitat for Humanity, the Heifer Project, the Angel Tree Christmas Mission, No More Malaria, and many conference-specific mission shares and special offerings. Regular contributions of goods and/or money have been given to OUR House in Barre, WCCC’s Partners in Service (PINS) for over twenty years to help support children in harm’s way. WCCC has continued its connection with OUR House after the PINS program was discontinued in 2012 due to budget constraints. For several decades, WCCC has also collected monetary donations each week for an ongoing fund to aid those affected by natural disasters. Those who wish to do so, contribute small amounts to be ready to give to specific disaster appeals as they arise.
After the devastating floodwaters of Tropical Storm Irene damaged some of Waterbury village in August 2011, WCCC shared its kitchen and meeting spaces with Wesley United Methodist Church and helped to provide and deliver lunches to Rebuild Waterbury volunteers.
The Administrative Council meets each month to plan and coordinate devotional and operational actions taken by committees on behalf of WCCC.
The Ladies Aide, first organized in 1900, continues to meet monthly and has often welcomed hosted guest speakers to inform and entertain its members. The group sends get well and holiday cards to those who are ill or shut-in and prepares Valentine bouquets and Christmas boxes for shut-ins. The Ladies Aide has hosted annual churchwide picnics, regularly hosted and provided refreshments after regular services and funerals and has kept the church building well-stocked with devotional publications and general supplies.
The Trustees lead efforts to keep the WCCC building and surrounding lawn and parking areas in good repair. Annual springtime work parties are organized, and all members help to make small improvements and clean the building and grounds. Recent projects have included steeple repairs (2000), masonry and windowsill restoration (2002), pew finish restoration work (2003), the replacement of the organ (2005), and a new access ramp (2016).
Examples of fundraising efforts that have supported operations and missions include the springtime Sugar on Snow supper held since 1934, Community Calendar sales to the whole community, summertime lawn sales, the annual Com Chowder Luncheon and Chicken Pie Supper held in the autumn, pasta dinners, and take-out dinners offered several times a year.
In recent decades, communications among WCCC members outside of worship services have evolved to include email communications and websites, as well as in-person and telephone conversations and the monthly WCCC newsletter. DSL internet service in the building and a WCCC Facebook account have served to expand the ways that members connect with each other and the wider world. Unlike closures required during the flu pandemic of 1918, when many communities were forced to limit public gatherings to prevent its spread, WCCC has been able to worship together virtually during the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic with the use of Zoom and YouTube software applications.
WCCC’s doors, both tangible and virtual, are open to all who wish to enter. WCCC hopes to continue to thrive in Waterbury with members of all ages who seek to use their spiritual gifts to follow God’s love and justice in all things.