The Center Building of the Presbyterian Church of Barnet. This building was built in 1849. The first sermon was preached in this building on July 22, 1849. The lumber was milled or hand hewn in Barnet. The pews face forward, a fashion of that time. It was heated by stoves and lighted by lamps until 1911.
There were three earlier buildings on this site. The first was a log “Meeting House” built before 1784. The second was a wooden building built in 1788, and moved to make room for the brick Meeting House. This was built in 1829 and burned down in 1849. These Meeting Houses were used for town business as well as for Church Services.
The first funeral held in this building was during the Civil War “when the body of a soldier was brought home.” Scottish Presbyterians did not hold funerals in Church. The big granite steps in front of the Church are from Ryegate. They were the steps for the brick Meeting House, 1829.
The Presbyterian Congregation called its first minister, Rev. David Goodwillie in 1790. The town had voted in 1784 to accept the Presbyterian form of church government. Many of the earliest settlers were from Scotland.
In 1994, the Barnet Center Presbyterian Church merged with the West Barnet Presbyterian Church to form the Presbyterian Church of Barnet. Summer Services, Christmas Eve and Easter Services are still held here. Winter services are held at the West Barnet Church. Vacation Bible School and Retreats are held at the Center Church.
In the summer of 1999, the two churches work together as one serving the Lord in this part of His Kingdom. Recently the foundation supports below the building were rebuilt, the roof as been painted, and the windows have been replaced with the original type windows.
There have been numerous Ministers of the Gospel who have served the churches. These are listed on the Plaque of Ministers at the front of the Church. In June of 1998, the Rev. John C. Sanderson and his wife Hannah were called to serve the Presbyterian Church of Barnet.
This is a very brief History of this building, and the treasured History serves as a foundation for the Christian work in this Community which looks to a future of service to our Lord.
The roots of this church are in Ryegate some twenty years after the American Revolution (1798), when the Reformed Presbyterian Church was formed there. It was also called the Covenanter Church then, for some of its Scottish doctrine. Congregations soon split off for Craftsbury and Topsham, and around 1829 the original group came under the care of the Rev. James Milligan, an energetic preacher who would soon begin a crusade to modify the local level of alcohol consumption.
During Mr. Milligan’s pastorate, probably around 1831, a new meetinghouse was added in Barnet, just north of the Ryegate town line. This is the Walter Harvey Meetinghouse, and one minister served both congregations. In 1851 a committee from Barnet met to create a new church, an independent congregation associated with the Reformed Presbyterian (General Synod) group. By 1859 they were eager for their own building, and organized the West Barnet Meetinghouse Association. Within that year, land was bought and the building constructed. The church originally had no basement, no front portico, and only two stained glass windows, the ones without pictures, which were then on the sides of the church. Additions and renovations in the first years of the 1900s were rooted in changes that took place in the congregation, and are described along with the windows that hold the memory of the early churchgoers. (See window descriptions.)
After those early 20th century changes, little was altered in the building besides routine updates to the bathroom and kitchen. But toward the end of the 20th century, in 1994, the congregation changed as the First Presbyterian Church of West Barnet merged with the Barnet Center Presbyterian Church, whose lovely buildings were used by a very small congregation at the time. Since then, both locations have housed the congregation, which alternates use of them seasonally (usually the West Barnet location in the cooler seasons and the Barnet Center one, which has only wood heat, in summer and for Christmas and for Easter Sunrise Service).
This merger of congregations, coupled with a generous legacy from West Barnet resident Karlene Exley intended to help improve access to the site and a community project called the Memory Tree, resulted in changes to the building again beginning in the year 2000, enlarging the bathroom and kitchen and creating a wider downstairs entrance and lift facilities for those who prefer less physically challenging entrance to the sanctuary.
Look for the wellhead near the front door, accompanied by its garden memorial to Lynwood (“Buddy”) McLam, who upheld the church through much of the 20th century with his patient and creative plumbing and electrical work as well as with his deep, joyful singing voice.