New Ipswich Congregational Church celebrates paying off mortgage

Members of the New Ipswich Congregational Church and supporters celebrate the conclusion of a major capital campaign to raise $250,000 and pay off the remainder of the church's mortgage on Sunday.

Members of the New Ipswich Congregational Church and supporters celebrate the conclusion of a major capital campaign to raise $250,000 and pay off the remainder of the church's mortgage on Sunday. COURTESY PHOTO—

Members of the New Ipswich Congregational Church and supporters celebrate the conclusion of a major capital campaign to raise $250,000 and pay off the remainder of the church's mortgage on Sunday.

Members of the New Ipswich Congregational Church and supporters celebrate the conclusion of a major capital campaign to raise $250,000 and pay off the remainder of the church's mortgage on Sunday. COURTESY PHOTO—

Members of the New Ipswich Congregational Church and supporters celebrate the conclusion of a major capital campaign to raise $250,000 and pay off the remainder of the church's mortgage on Sunday.

Members of the New Ipswich Congregational Church and supporters celebrate the conclusion of a major capital campaign to raise $250,000 and pay off the remainder of the church's mortgage on Sunday. COURTESY PHOTO—

By ASHLEY SAARI

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

Published: 04-15-2024 10:57 AM

The New Ipswich Congregational Church celebrated a significant milestone Sunday, holding a celebratory lunch and a burning of the church’s mortgage note, after a major capital campaign to help pay off the church’s debt.

Pastor Ken Whitson said the church had taken out a mortgage on the historic building years ago in order to conduct a large remodel of the building, which was in need of major repairs. The church took on about $440,000 in debt, and Whitson said when he became the church’s pastor six years ago, the church didn’t expect to pay it off any time soon.

“The congregation, for a number of reasons, was shrinking, and we were struggling to make those payments,” Whitson said. “We had to start to take a long-term view, and the fact was, the church wasn’t going to last under this debt. Eventually, we wouldn’t be able to afford a pastor, and without a pastor, we wouldn’t have a congregation, and we couldn’t pay the loan, and eventually, the bank would take the building. It was kind of a panic moment.”

Whitson said the church launched a capital campaign, called “1 of 250,” with the idea that if 250 people were willing to donate $1,000, the church would be able to completely pay off the mortgage.

Many, many people gave smaller amounts, Whitson said, but some donors gave $10,000 or $12,000. Even those who didn’t give financial donations, but participated in the church’s shoe drive or clothing donation shed, contributed, Whitson said, as funds from those efforts also went into the building fund.

Whitson said there has been an “outpouring, not only from the community, but the world,” with some donations coming in from as far away as California and North Carolina from people who once had some connection to the church but no longer live in town.

Whitson thanked community members who have contributed to the campaign.

“I’m still in theological shock. It’s happened far faster than I thought it would. I think I knew God would be faithful in this, and help us find the helpers to pay this off, and they did come out of the woodwork,” Whitson said.

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One group of young girls in town hosted a lemonade stand in support of the project, hoping for a few hundred dollars, and raised $1,200.

The final $1,000 needed to cap off the payment, Whitson said, came from a family with four children.

“That’s a lot of money for a family with four children to spend, for a church you don’t attend,” Whitson said.

Whitson said the effort shows the importance of the church to the community. The church is host to community groups, including the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts; hosts craft fairs; and annually hosts the Children’s Fair, which draws thousands of visitors and raises funds which are distributed throughout the community in support of children and families.

Whitson said now that the church no longer has a mortgage payment hanging over its head, it can return its focus to the its mission, building community relationships, and putting more funds into the ongoing maintenance of the church so they don’t reach the point that such an extensive renovation is needed again.

Ashley Saari can be reached at 603-924-7172, Ext. 244, or asaari@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on X @AshleySaariMLT.