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REACHING NEW HEIGHTS: Church replaces steeple

Associate Pastor Scott Wise explained that the new steeple pays homage to the original steeple when the church was built in 1853. That steeple was removed in the late 1880s prior to the installation of the village clock in 1891.

Last June, it took days for a crane to demolish the Family Church Fredonia steeple, which was heavily damaged in a fire on May 4, 2018. However, on Wednesday morning in less than two hours, the same crane installed the brand new steeple, much to the delight of church members and the community.

Senior Pastor Michael Lokietek and Associate Pastor Scott Wise were pleased to see the restoration come together and be a part of the next chapter of the historic church, which was built in 1853. “We’re watching history today,” said Wise. “The gravity of this moment has really touched me. The last steeple was up for 100 years, and we hope this one stands for many more years than that.”

The fiberglass steeple, which was manufactured in North Carolina and shipped to the site, was installed by EMC Construction in three sections, beginning at approximately 9:15 a.m. on Wednesday. Just before 11 a.m., the final piece was installed. “It’s a surprisingly simple process with the crane,” Wise told the OBSERVER. “There are also men working inside the steeple. Each level has four brackets that secure it to the level beneath it. Then on the inside, there will be a lightning protection piece installed. We still have to finish the siding and we’ll be repainting the white trim, but it’s coming along beautifully.”

If it seems like the new steeple is taller than the one that burned, that’s because it is. “This steeple is 104 feet to the top of the cross,” Wise explained.

“The last one was approximately 92 or 93 feet tall.”

Lokietek and Wise said the new clock will be installed in the section just below the three-part steeple (above the piece with the columns) on July 22, as long as the weather cooperates. The clock piece is made in Ohio by the same company that created the former clock, which was installed in the early 2000s as a result of strong community fundraising efforts. “The original clock was from 1891, the same year the Opera House was built,” Wise explained. “There were a lot of components of the original 1891 clock left when they put in the second one in the 2000s, including a box of rocks that was used to adjust the speed of the clock!”

Fortunately, the new clock won’t be needing any rocks to run smoothly. Equipped with a small motor, the new clock is LED backlit and weighs approximately 150 pounds. Wise explained that a crane is needed for the installation, along with nice weather, of course. “Today was perfect: warm, sunny and most importantly: no wind!” said Lokietek.

Demolishing the damaged steeple was a much lengthier process, due in large part to the 3,000-pound bell that had to be safely removed. “Demolition is a delicate process,” Wise explained. “It took a few days with the crane due to the weight distribution of different sections and which boards could support the weight. The bell had essentially broken in half and caved in on itself; there was a special rig built to get it down piece by piece, otherwise it would have crashed straight down to the basement.”

The new steeple does not include a bell; however, the old one was saved and is currently located on the side of the church building to be memorialized at a future date.

While the loss of the bell is sad, Lokietek is grateful for the beautiful music provided by the other churches around Barker Common. “We’ll bring the time, they’ll bring the chime,” he said.

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