200-year-old Whiting church gets $4K surprise

WHITING — There’s been a lot to celebrate recently at the Whiting Community Church, not the least of which was a series of large, unexpected anonymous donations.
To start with, there was the church’s 200th birthday bash on Oct. 1, which drew more than 200 people despite rainy weather and raised $600.
People turned out to the 40-member church to eat, compete in three-legged races and a cross-cut saw tournament, attend services, bob for apples, watch the fireworks and, said Pastor Billy Jones, have a lot of fun.
But Jones said that the party was only a small piece of the momentum that’s building at the church, which now has an engaged membership talking about expanding offerings and community events.
And the frame of the church community — the 200-year-old church itself — will also be getting a needed facelift, starting with a roof renovation this fall and continuing with a foundation and floor renovation next spring.
An unfortunate event — a lightning strike to the steeple just one week before Tropical Storm Irene — sparked a renewed push to renovate the church roof. Jones said part of the repairs will be covered by the insurance, as the strike did about $5,600 worth of damage.
For the rest of the $25,000 roof renovation, Jones said a series of generous gifts have set the church on the road to financing the project.
“Unsolicited, God has sent about $14,000 our direction, without us asking for a penny,” he said. “It’s just showed up in the mailbox.”
The most unexpected of those funds came from a group of strangers from Oklahoma, passing through Vermont on vacation.
The four tourists spied the steeple of the Whiting church and headed over to Route 30 to investigate, finding Jones at the church to show them around.
The two couples looked around and took some pictures — not unusual, said Jones — but before they left, one couple handed Jones a check for $1,000.
One month later, another $1,000 check arrived from the couple. Then, a third time, on the day of the 200th birthday party another check arrived for $1,000. And, said Jones, another $1,000 arrived from another Oklahoma group. All wished to remain anonymous.
Jones said this generosity has sparked momentum within the congregation.
“People are just thankful,” he said. “There are a lot of smiles and joyful faces, because they realize that all of their faithfulness over the years in keeping the church open has paid off.”
And for Jones, who’s been the senior pastor in Whiting for three years now, said it’s inspiring to be a part of a 200-year-old congregation.
“It’s very humbling, but it’s also very exciting to know that God has been working in this tiny community here for over 200 years,” said Jones. “People are enthusiastic about what’s coming next. Expanding, remodeling the downstairs — that’s a good thing to be a part of.”
Reporter Andrea Suozzo is at [email protected] .

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