Howard Valley Church Holds Annual Fall Service
By Penny Newbury
The historic Howard Valley Christian Church saw one of its biggest services in recent years on September 18, with over 40 people in attendance. Thanks to some good advertising and the dogged determination of Marion Halbach, a member of one of the founding families of the church, the word got out to more people this year and everyone present agreed it was a great event. The church, built in 1842 and located on Windham Road, doesn‘t see a lot of action these days, and in order for it to retain its status as a house of worship it must hold at least one service per year. The Cornerstone Baptist Church of Danielson has had administrative oversight of the church for the past seven years, and ―lends‖ a pastor every year for the fall service, which included a timely sermon, attendee-chosen hymns (including a Christmas carol), volunteer musicians, and vigorous bell-ringing to call the com- munity to worship. Reverend Greg Thomas led the service this year, as he has done for the past three years, although this time he had green hair, which apart from being quite fetching was a re- mainder from a promise earlier in the day that if Danielson got a large group of people to participate in their yearly Crop Walk, he‘d let the kids paint his hair green. He spoke to the congrega- tion about celebrating fall, weathering storms of all kinds, work- ing together, gratitude, and perspective. Rev. Thomas is also a guitarist and together with a banjo player who suddenly appeared, led attendees in a bluegrass hymn called ―The Little White Church.‖ For those of us wondering if the pump organ would ever make a sound again, it did—professional musician Todd
Marston was visiting his parents, who are affiliated with Corner- stone, and he agreed to be the hymn accompanist. There was also a useful communal discussion of how to better use the church building in the future so that it could be appreciated by the entire community and return somewhat to its former role as provider of space for all kinds of social activities that bring people togeth- er. Ideas for events included hymn and carol singing, a candle- light Christmas service, musical and poetry events. Rev. Thomas said he would like to see the building used at least 10-12 times per year. Currently the church has a caretaker who lives next door, and Cornerstone‘s Deacon of Property and Finance, whose wife reported that he‘d ―fallen in love‖ with our little church, arranged for its back sills to be repaired last winter.
Approximately half the crowd was from Hampton, and Mary Drader, whose family comes from Hampton and went to the Howard Valley School, made the trip from Marlboro, Mass. She reported that she is also related to the Burnham family, who helped found the church, and looks forward every year to the ser- vice.
Many newcomers were extremely impressed by the church, and the feeling of community spirit it possesses. Said Hampton resident and architect Tom Gaines, ―"I‘ve been waiting 37 years to see the inside of this building, and I have to say, it is absolutely lovely. It‘s really exciting to see a country church that is so lively."
This article orginally appeared in the October 2011 edition of the Hampton Gazette.