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Some folks look for a sign but more often than not, they are looking for a signal. First Congregational Church in Essex is preparing to help the Connecticut Valley get both.
On Nov. 27, congregation representatives and Verizon experts in zoning and cell phone technology got the green light to install Verizon Wireless equipment within the bell tower of the 1852 church at 6 Methodist Hill in Essex. The cleverly hidden antennas in the church high on the hill overlooking the Connecticut River will provide increased cell phone coverage for Verizon subscribers, north and south along the river. The Essex church antennas will be repeating signals from a larger tower.
As a bonus, resident minister at the church, Ken Peterkin, wants to place a webcam on top of the tower so that everyone can take in the view of the river from on high.
Wireless providers like Verizon and AT&T have been installing antennas in Connecticut’s church steeples, bell towers, and on spires, and crosses, for more than two decades now. Many of the historic structures have benefited with renovations, and in some cases, complete reconstruction. Additionally, the churches receive monthly compensation—akin to a fixed royalty—that can help boost a cash-strapped assembly’s bottom line.
In the case of the Congregational Church in Essex, the deteriorating original bell tower is being renovated, and the congregation will receive compensation for the equipment being installed.
Peterkin sees the partnership with Verizon as an opportunity for the congregation to have a “good, prayerful conversation” about how they can turn their abundance into ministries assisting the community as a whole.
In addition to the antennas in the bell tower, there will be a small building at the back of the playground that will house equipment and a backup generator. The generator will also power the church in the case of an outage: another win for the congregation. The only other addition is a broomstick-size GPS transponder placed on the property that Peterkin says will go unnoticed.
“I live right next door, and the new structure that will be constructed won’t bother me one bit because it is so hidden,” says Peterkin.
The First Congregational Church in Essex system should be booted up between March and May.
Peterkin is hopeful.
“Resources and participation in churches everywhere are dwindling. People are finding spirit and inspiration in places other than just church,” he notes.
“I don’t want the congregation to depend on the compensation. There is great abundance in the lives of most people in Essex, and for the greater part, we live a comfortable life here. With our good fortune, we pray we can turn all of this into service.”
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