Restored steeple returns to First Baptist

Cary Ashby • Updated Nov 1, 2019 at 11:17 PM

Friday was a historic day for First Baptist Church of Norwalk.

The refurbished 17-foot tall steeple returned to its rightful place on the west side of the roof on a frigid Friday morning. It dates from about 1880, when the church was constructed. The steeple blew down in June 2012.

“It crumbled to pieces. We have a member of our congregation who has been working on it for years, putting it together piece by piece, repainting (it), etc.,” said the pastor, the Rev. Dr. Tara Henderson.

Gerald Gill, church member and trustee, spent more than six years refurbishing the steeple.

“I donated it all,” he said. “That’s the original steeple. I just refurbished all the parts and put it back together.”

Gill used about 90 percent of the original material in the process.

“I could have done it new, but it wouldn’t have been the same,” the church member said.

“It was kinda neat to have the opportunity to put it back together there after it blew off,” added Gill, a former sales engineer. “This is a big deal for the church.” 

His pastor agreed.

“There are some people who are helping him and have donated their time and equipment to make this day happen on Friday,” Henderson said.

John Rospert and Riley Contracting Inc. in Norwalk donated their time in getting the steeple back in position. St. Paul Catholic Church allowed the crew to use its hydraulic lift.

It was windy and cold Friday morning when the process started.  

“We attached a tag line to the steeple so that if we get it up and the wind is a little bit more than it is down here, we don’t let it get away from us. It’s about 14 mph wind, but when you get up there that high, it’s a little bit more intense than it is down on the ground,” said Boo Riley, of Riley Contracting.

“Things will blow around up there and this is a large piece and it doesn’t weigh very much, so it’s going to sway a lot.”

Gill estimated the entire process would take an hour.

“I’m hoping (it will be) a little quicker than that,” Riley said with a chuckle.

Gill talked about the process of lifting the steeple to the roof and getting it secured.

“We’re just going to hook that crane onto the cross at the top of the steeple and lift it up. We’ve got a bracket made up there that we’ve concreted into the chimney and matching (ones) on the bottom of the steeple and (we will) set it down. (We’ll) put eight bolts on it,” he said.

Since this year has been the bicentennial celebration of First Baptist, the timing to get the steeple back in place couldn’t have been better.

“We were hoping to get the steeple finished and restored to its proper place on our building during our special 200th-year anniversary. We are so grateful to God that this has become a reality. We are thankful for God’s faithfulness in our lives and the opportunity to serve God in our community for 200 years. As we enter our third century of worshiping God and serving others, we hope that this steeple is a reminder to each other and our community of God’s love, grace, redemption and hope,” Henderson said.

The pastor also sees a parallel between the restored steeple and the work of the Holy Spirit.

“God takes our broken pieces and molds them and shapes them and restores them into something more beautiful than we can imagine. And for that, we give God all the glory,” she said. “Putting the steeple up brings it all together.”

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