Middle Street Baptist Church celebrates renovations

4/18/2018

PORTSMOUTH -- Seacoast residents will soon have another option for lunch.

Beginning May 2, a community lunch will be provided Wednesdays from noon to 1 p.m., through the Seacoast Community Lunch at Middle Street Baptist Church at 18 Court St.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony with the Chamber Collaborative of Greater Portsmouth was held Wednesday, two weeks before the first scheduled lunch.

The Middle Street Baptist Church, open since 1826, has been under renovation for nearly a year. As a part of these renovations, the building received a new commercial kitchen and dining area to make the community lunches possible.

The goal of the Seacoast Community Lunch is to partner with community organizations, local businesses and individual volunteers to offer a free, hot meal to anyone who wants one. Seacoast Community Lunch organizers hope to bring in a local chef weekly who would prepare the meal along with other volunteers.

The idea of the community lunch is largely modeled on the weekly Common Table Lunch at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Portsmouth, according to Pastor Chris Dunaway.

Lisa DeStefano of DeStefano Architects was the architect for the renovations. Budel Construction Corp. completed the renovations.

“This was a catalyst to open up the church for community lunches,” DeStefano said.

The renovations also the church to meet current plumbing and fire safety codes as well as handicap access. In addition to the kitchen and dining area, the entire facility has plans to be upgraded, according to DeStefano. The entire renovation process has been about meeting the required codes, as well as keeping the building’s original “aesthetics and character” she said.

“We really wanted to focus on a new look, but keep it familiar and comfortable,” said Nichole McNeal, interior designer at DeStefano Architects.

“We’ve gotten a lot of compliments on the colors,” McNeal said. “I think we achieved what we wanted.”

The dining room, known as Fellowship Hall, features light blue walls with some richer, darker blue for depth. The light blue, McNeal said, was chosen as a traditional Seacoast color. “It’s home-like,” she said.

Tom Hand, chairman of the trustees at Middle Street Baptist Church, was the project manager for the renovations.

“We’ve been thinking about this for at least three years,” Hand said. “It takes the whole family to make it work.”

“It’s an exciting season for us as a church family,” added Dunaway.

Janet Hand, clerk of the church, has attended Middle Street Baptist Church for 50 years. “I’m excited for this opportunity to really serve the neighbors of Portsmouth,” she said.

“Our building is a tool for ministry,” Dunaway said. “This isn’t about a pretty room and well-equipped kitchen. It’s about using it. We want it to be actively used.”

The church currently has 140 members with 80 to 90 who actively come to Sunday service, Dunaway said.

“We get a lot of involvement through donation, whether it’s donating time, money or energy, everyone makes it happen,” he said.



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