New elevator will change life at Park Place Congregational Church

New elevator will change life at Park Place Congregational Church

The Rev. Wayne Patenaude, left, and The Rev. Bill McMillan show the unfinished elevator shaft at the Park Place Congregational Church. (Breeze photos by Ethan Shorey)

PAWTUCKET – One of the city’s oldest institutions, the Park Place Congregational Church at 71 Park Place, is getting a modern innovation to help it grow.

The Rev. William McMillan and Rev. Wayne Patenaude say a new elevator is being built to provide handicap accessibility and it will change the way the church, founded in 1882, operates, allowing more people to access events on all floors.

According to McMillan, those who struggle to climb or descend stairs will soon have an easier time of getting to events in the basement or on the upper level of the church, where the sanctuary is located.

Church leaders have long known they needed an elevator, he said, but never pulled the trigger due to the high cost. They have at times been forced to carry wheelchairs up stairs or to help people make the painful trek up or down the stairs.

“We agreed this has to be done, and we’re stepping out in faith,” said McMillan.

The elevator will bring those in the church from the ground level to:

• The basement level for such things as cabarets, the soup kitchen, fundraisers, and AA meetings, among others.

• And the upper level for worship services, Bible studies, choir performances, and music and praise events, among others.

The elevator will make the “monumental” church on Park Place a more inviting place, hopefully helping its leaders grow its membership, said Patenaude.

The total cost of the project, set to be completed soon, is between $100,000 and $115,000. A substantial gift from a longtime member brought the church to just shy of half of the amount needed for the project. Leaders are planning fundraisers to help close the gap.

The project is the most substantial in the church’s history, said Patenaude. Past work included steeple repair, a new roof and painting projects.

The elevator has been needed for “many, many, many years” and is “absolutely necessary for our society now,” said Patenaude.

Founding pastor Joseph Judah Woolley wanted this church to be a place that was open to everyone, said Patenaude, and this project helps fulfill that goal. That open and welcoming attitude is part of the “original DNA” of the church, he said.

“We’ll be able to open up our doors to a lot more people,” he said.

There is a lot of history and meaningful design in the church, said Patenaude, but this church finds its meaning in helping people.

Membership since Patenaude and McMillan took over in 2010 has increased from 40 to 80 people, they said, and they expect those numbers to continue growing. There are young families coming now, said Patenaude, meaning fewer funerals and more weddings and baptisms.

This church’s emphasis has never been about money, said McMillan and Patenaude, but about “keeping God’s work going.”

The goal, said the pastors, is that everyone who walks through doors of this open and affirming church will feel the love that’s here and be brought closer to God. The Pawtucket Congregational Church is part of the United Church of Christ.

Anyone who would like to donate to the elevator project should email office@ppucc.necoxmail.com .

Visit www.parkplaceucc.com for more on the church.

Jeff DiMarzio does the brickwork on the outside of the new elevator, which should be completed soon.