Youthful enthusiasm: Brookside Church group on a mission to help repair and restore sister church in Maine

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Brookside Congregational Church youth group members drop off bottles for recycling. From left, Julia Falco, Zora Brady, Gaby Falco, Brian Brady, Kate Stantial, Langston Brady, Clark Cayer, Laura Tourigny, Ellen Smith Tourigny, Sarah Stantial, Sergei Carle, Derrick Dixon and Mitch Cayer. Courtesy Photo

MANCHESTER, NH — A typical summer highlights reel for the average adolescent kid might include a lot of sleeping in and Snapchat. For a group of 11 members of Brookside Church youth group, this summer’s highlight reel will also include rolling up their sleeves and helping restore a 19th-century church building in Maine as part of an ongoing mission of mercy.

Members of the Brookside Congregational Church youth group are finishing up a week of service at the Amherst-Aurora Congregational Church in Maine, pitching in to complete some much-needed repairs. The building was constructed in 1842 and, as membership has dwindled and aged, the need for some youthful enthusiasm and TLC has been met by Brookside’s youngest members.

Youth group leader Ellen Tourigny, who is supervising the mission trip along with church member Brian Brady, says this is the fifth year Brookside’s youth group has made the trip.

“In 2015 we came to work at another organization and attended service at the Amherst-Aurora Congregational Church. We instantly made a connection with the parishioners and their now late pastor J.Faye Wolf,” says Tourigny. “When it came time to plan the next year’s trip, I reached out to Faye about the possibility of doing some work at their church.”

Since then the group has returned each summer to help out with fundraising and improvements including rebuilding the front steps and ramp, painting the church floor, landscaping, replacing flooring in the Narthex and other upgrades. To cover the cost of building material for the annual mission trip Brookside holds year-long fundraising drives, and Tourigny hosts the youth group members at her camp at Hopkins Pond in Hancock, Maine.

“This year we did a bottle drive, sold take-out lunches and had a spaghetti supper,” notes Tourigny.

The plight Amherst-Aurora Congregational church is shared by many small rural and historic churches around the country, often they are the only church in town and membership dwindles as the population ages. Creating a partnership with an urban church community is one way of surmounting the costs of essential repairs and renovations.

There is also a GoFundMe page set up to raise money to restore their community hall to its “glory days,” as a community gathering place.

The group of 11 young people was the largest so far, says Tourigny.
“The church members look forward to the kids’ visit every year and a very strong connection has formed between the kids and the parishioners,” Tourigny said, a sentiment echoed by longtime Amherst-Aurora church member Geneva Duncan-Frost.
“I guess I would say we were in kind of a decline,” Duncan-Frost said. “Right now we have a very small, kind of aging congregation, so we are just thrilled to have these children.”
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