Falling ceiling raising concerns for Essex church

ESSEX Its a relatively small area of the ceiling, but it could mean big problems for the Essex Community Church. Just before Christmas, a patch of plaster fell inside the church sanctuary, leaving the beams bare. The area of ceiling, a bit over four feet wide, just missed the churchs organ. Its probable that the entire ceiling may be in jeopardy, said Jim Van Hoven, a member of the church board. He added that it was lucky no one was in the church at the time the ceiling fell. The 25-foot ceiling requires scaffolding be put up to make an inspection. A crack in the center of the ceiling is of particular concern. The ceiling dates back to the 1850s, when the church was built. Minor repairs have been performed throughout the years. Van Hoven said the church had hired Michael Kempster, the Master of Plaster in Willsboro, to oversee the repairs. Local craftsmen John King will help with the work. If the entire ceiling needs to be replaced, the cost is estimated to be $47,000. The church has $13,600 left from a restoration fund, and has raised about $7,200 for repairs. There are some planned renovation projects which have been put on hold, since the ceiling takes priority. Van Hoven said church officials were hoping members of the community would help meet its fund-raising goal. The church needs over $20,000 in additional funds to cover the costs of repairs. The congregation has moved its services to the fellowship hall, located in the basement of the building. Along with serving the congregation of about 90 people, the sanctuary serves as a gathering space for the Essex community. In the summer, the popular Organ and Concert Series takes place there.

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