Demo precedes rebuilding of church


Woodbury Union Church Presbyterian Church in Conimicut will even get a clearer view of the heavens starting this week, and that’s a good thing.

John “Duffy” Lynch, supervisor for JAL Co. – the company performing demolition of the interior of the church, which was extensively damaged by fire on Thanksgiving eve – said Monday his crew will gut the church, including removal of the roof, beginning this week.

He estimated the job would take a month, after which reconstruction of the building would begin. The church will occupy the same footprint, with many of the walls – some of which sustained only minimal damage – left to stand.

Gary Christensen, a Woodbury parishioner ever since marrying 38 years ago, is overseeing the reconstruction project. He expects demolition to be completed by the end of July, which will be followed by the reconstruction. He thinks the reconstruction will be completed after the first of the New Year.

Observing that the church is more than 100 years old and that a good portion of the building was saved, he said, “fortunately we’ll be able to stay a lot longer.”

Lynch said his crew started gutting the church in the basement and is working its way up.

Lynch said he has been involved in numerous demolition projects, one of the largest and most recent being the gutting of the Providence Journal building in Providence as it was converted into offices for Virgin Pulse.

However, this is Lynch’s first church, and when he paused to think about that said, “We’ve got to watch out what we’re saying.” In fact, he added that with most of the roof gone, the divine has a clear view of what they’re doing.

Christensen said much of the layout of the church would remain the same with a “more efficient use of space.” In addition to the handbells that were salvaged from the fire, he said they are hopeful of salvaging the pipe organ.

Also looking promising, he said, is that the overall reconstruction project will come in at or below the $1.5 million budget. Insurance and donations are covering the costs.

Immediately following the fire, Fr. Robert Marciano, pastor of St. Kevin and St. Benedict churches, offered Woodbury use of St. Benedict for services and to maintain its programs. Woodbury has been meeting there since the fire.

“We’re underway,” Christensen said with a note of relief.


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