While the early morning sun slowly softened the gauze-like fog enveloping the fields, a small, cheerful group of onlookers grew a bit bigger, a few unfolded chairs, others clutched cups of coffee, a couple of children roamed around the parking lot. The exciting wait was almost over.
All had arrived to witness a very special Thursday at Forest Grove Presbyterian Church in the tiny village of the same name.
The time had come to place a towering new white steeple atop the 170-year-old stone church, a landmark in the tight-knit community.
Although steeples are not original to churches, said Forest Grove Pastor Susan Fall, and many little ones such as hers don’t have one, the congregation here finds the adornment quite significant.
“It symbolizes looking upward, ‘I will lift my eyes to the Lord,’” quoted Fall, from the Bible. “In the midst of the mess of our lives here, we look up. God looks over us all. God’s got this,” said the pastor.
A steeple, she said, serves as “a beacon of hope.”
With its thick aluminum frame, the steeple weighs in at 3,200 pounds, reaching 22 feet in height. It was designed by Dan Campbell, a Chester County architect specializing in historic preservation, particularly mid-19th century churches.
“It’s not something we architects do every day,” he said, with a clearly proud smile, watching his work being attached to an enormous hook. Church member Craig Jencks, who coordinated the project, happily looked on, too.
As the team at Campbellsville Industries Inc., “The Steeple People” of Campbellsville KY, prepared to install the massive structure, several church members took the rare opportunity to sign their names inside.
Carol Eckmeder sat on a bench with her husband, Preston Eckmeder, and watched the meticulous, laborious lifting of the steeple, as the lift operator delicately guided it into the brilliant blue sky.
“It’s a culmination,” said Carol. “The steeple is something you can see from a long way off and you know a church is here.”
Forest Grove, she added, “has been a second family to us.”
From the new speakers within the steeple, church members will soon be called to worship from the carillion, which Rebecca Schroeder oversees from her position inside the historic building.
The last time the 120-member house of worship had a steeple was 1961, and that replaced the beautiful bell tower that preceded it. Plans are underway to create a memorial garden at the front of the building and, hopefully, place the bell tower there, said Fall.