DerryNews.com, Derry, New Hampshire

January 10, 2013

First Parish offers lofty view of the 'kingdom'

By Julie Huss
jhuss@derrynews.com

---- — DERRY — A local church is giving a bird’s-eye view from its historic steeple.

First Parish Church in East Derry now has a “tower cam” installed, offering a look out onto the landscape from its lofty perch.

Photo images change every few second,s showing the East Derry center below during various weather patterns and seasons.

The idea to place a camera on the church began last May as the church prepared to celebrate its Heritage Day. Members decided to show people what the view looks like today, compared to photos taken from the steeple in the early 1900s.

Member Wendy Staggs said the church technology team and building rehabilitation committee thought it was a unique idea to once again put the historic bell tower in the spotlight. Camera equipment was donated and a core group of volunteers now handle its daily operation.

With the steeple’s age and condition, the camera offers people a chance to view the world without having to climb into the tower.

“Very few people get to go and see it because of the stairs and the structure itself not being very climber friendly,” Staggs said. “Why not let everyone enjoy what only a few have had the privilege to see?”

Parishioner Kevin Gordon said he and Staggs climbed the many stairs past the First Parish clock and into the bell tower to place the camera.

“Wendy was holding on to me so I would not fall,” Gordon said. “Then we had to run the cable all the way down the steeple and hook up to a central point so we could gain access to our Internet infrastructure.”

Staggs has been attending First Parish for more than 30 years and said it’s a special place. Not only are its history books filled with memories and tales dating back to its 1719 origin on the East Derry hill, but the members who fill the pews are also instrumental in keeping the building’s history alive.

“They are warm, welcoming and friendly,” she said. “They are my second family and, when times are tough, they are there to pick you up, cheer you on, prepare meals, have the shoulder to cry on and always have an extra prayer.”

Gordon has attended First Parish for about 13 years and said the congregation is not only rich in tradition as the area’s first meeting house, but is now a modern church family that accepts all and does a lot of good for the community.

The church will celebrate its 300th anniversary in 2019.

“People love the camera,” Staggs said. “We plan to leave it up as long as possible.”

Gordon said people can access the tower camera images through the First Parish site at fpc-ucc.org or via Facebook.

“It’s been great, especially the fall season as the leaves were changing,” he said. “Now we can look at the beautiful snow-covered ground.”