Pews from Bridgeport grace Monroe church
MONROE — Antique pews that were once used for worship by one church in Bridgeport have found a home in another in Monroe.
Stepney Baptist Church is the new owner of about 34 pews that spent about a century in United Congregational Church, in a building that has become a mosque.
When Stepney Baptist renovation committee chairman Robert Perez saw a Connecticut Post story detailing United Congregational Church’s building sale, the Monroe church reached about buying the pews, pastor Kevin Merritt said. The Bridgeport building that housed UCC is now the home of the Islamic Cultural Center, which opened in May.
Stepney Baptist bought the pews, along with some other pieces of furniture, from UCC for about $6,000, Merritt said.
“I think it adds a lot of warmth, and I love the way they feel,” Merritt said. “They feel old and they feel appropriate for an antique building.”
Stepney Baptist’s wood-framed, Greek-revival style building was built in 1841. Though its old pews were not the original ones, they likely date back to the late 1800s, Merritt said. The pews had become rickety and uncomfortable.
They were replaced with the UCC’s in a “very touching transition and transfer,” Merritt said.
“There’s a continuity of tradition,” he said. “We did not want to go modern with our sanctuary.”
Some of the United Congregational Church pews, made of solid maple wood with crosses etched into the side, were retrofitted to fit the smaller Stepney Baptist Church. They were fitted with new navy blue cushions and arranged across the main floor of the church and the balcony.
The new pews were part of a larger renovation Stepney Baptist went through over the summer. The church leveled its floors, replaced the red shag carpeting from the 1960s, gave the walls a fresh coat of paint, took out a wall to create a “welcome area” and put in new lighting fixture and sound system.
Merritt said it would have cost the church about $80,000 to replace its pews with ones like those from the United Congregational Church. But because they bought from the church, the entire cost of purchase, placement and refurbishment was about $30,000.
UCC members scheduled a visit to Stepney Baptist for Friday night, giving the Bridgeport congregants a chance to see the pews in their new home.
“They’re very excited to come up and kind of see these pews that have been in their church for about 100 years, kind of living on in another church,” Merritt said.