Jehovah's Witnesses' Kingdom Hall to be finished by October 12.
Jehovah's Witnesses volunteers put up the framing for a new Kingdom Hall on Shelburne Road Thursday.
Friday, September 20, 2013
(Published in print: Saturday, September 21, 2013)
CORRECTION: The completion date for the volunteer construction of a new Kingdom Hall of Jehovah's Witnesses in Greenfield was incorrectly inferred in a headline on the front page of Saturday's Recorder. The project is expected to be completed Oct. 12.
GREENFIELD — More than 100 volunteers are set to work all weekend, and by Sunday night, a new place of worship will stand where there was nothing but a concrete slab a week ago.
On Thursday morning, 110 volunteers with the Jehovah's Witnesses Regional Building Committee gathered on the former site of Annie's Auctions on Shelburne Road. They started at 8 a.m. with a concrete slab, and by the time they left for the day, after sundown, exterior walls were in place, and a pile of trusses were ready to go on top.
When it's done, it will serve as a meeting place and educational center for the Shelburne Falls and Greenfield congregations of Jehovah's Witnesses. Though the two groups will meet separately, they're coming together with Witnesses from all over New England to build the new Kingdom Hall.
The plan is to have the building up and roof in place by the time the volunteers leave Sunday. If the project stays on schedule, it will be ready for inspection Oct. 12.
Allowing just four weeks to go from that first timber to the last carpet tack may seem ambitious, but it's actually a lot of time for a Kingdom Hall project.
"We used to do the whole project in a weekend," said Rob Nicoll, spokesman for the Massachusetts 2nd Region Building Committee. "Some groups still put them up in three days."
Nicoll said as many as 1,200 volunteers will be involved in the project. Some will wield hammers and paintbrushes, others will plumb and wire the building, and several more will serve as the support crew, in the kitchen, first aid tent or supply shack.
Thursday's 11-hour work day was a flurry of activity.
"It may look like a bunch of ants on an anthill, but every one of them has a purpose," said Grant Garcia, one of five members of the committee who are overseeing construction.
"It's a really uplifting experience to work with such willing volunteers here," he continued.
Some of those volunteers have been at it for more than 30 years.
"We have some guys here today that were on the first New England Kingdom Hall project, in 1982 in Enosburgh, Vt.," one of the early, one-weekend builds, said Garcia. "They built that one during a snowstorm."
Volunteer building projects aren't just a way to keep costs low.
"We see this as a worship service, too," Garcia explained.
Though they enjoy coming together for building projects, the volunteers are eager to get back to their everyday duties.
"Every one of us is a minister," said Nicoll. When they're not working on a project or coming together for Sunday talks and other services, the Witnesses are out going door to door, spreading the good word.
Though Witnesses have been coming together to put up Kingdom Halls in New England for more than 30 years, and complete about 4,000 such projects annually worldwide, some things are new to them.
The Greenfield Kingdom Hall will be the first New England project to incorporate solar electricity and a geothermal heating and cooling system.
The membership of the Witnesses represents a wide skill-set, which comes in handy on building projects. Several are licensed contractors and professional tradesmen, gladly donating their expertise and even equipment like excavators to help the project come in on-time and under-budget.
The more experienced volunteers also help show the beginners the ropes, and there is plenty of need for able bodies and helping hands.
The food services area seemed equipped to feed a small army. Several beige tents provided cover for everything from food preparation to dishwashing, and a large trailer sported all the necessary appliances in a two-sided rolling kitchen.
While work crews come and go as the need for one trade replaces another, workers need to eat.
The kitchen crew will feed framers and roofers this weekend, heating workers and electricians next week, and drywall and interior workers the following week.
That's when Nicoll will pick up his tools.
"I'm a mudder," he said. He's been a member of the drywall crew for several other Kingdom Hall projects.
Nicoll said the Kingdom Hall project has gotten a lot of attention since site preparation work began in August, so much so that he planned to return with an armload of brochures on the project to hand out.
Once the work is done, the curious are invited to take a look at the finished project, and hear more about the Jehovah's Witnesses. The lot is visible from the Mohawk Trail, though the entrance will be away from the thoroughfare, at 290 Shelburne Road.