It started with bat shit.

The rafters were covered with it. Pigeon shit too. The belltower must have housed dozen of the winged beasts, and they found their way down into the roof, the gables and all along the upper windows. Every surface above the second floor sported a guano rug.

I guess that’s what happens in a 200-year-old church.

Every year, my extended Hausman family gathers somewhere in the western hemisphere to throw our backs into a community work project. This year, nine of us spent five days restoring a venerable church-turned-community-center in Newbury, VT. Originally a Methodist seminary with a proud anti-slavery past, the church was converted to a community center a few decades back. The “Vermont Hausmans” – Rick, Emi, Ethan and Nate – have been connected to it since Emi started teaching in the schoolhouse next door. They suggested to the family that we spend our week giving the building some much needed TLC.

Hence, our encounter with shit. We started with a deep cleaning of the upper floors and the belltower. After we could walk around without biohazard suits, we started repairs on the steeple shutters, the access ramp and the sagging porch. The skills we’ve developed from past work projects – in places as diverse as Haiti, Jamaica, California, Florida and New York – served us well.

By the time we had to leave, we’d certainly spruced the place up … but we’d also de-constructed as much as we’d constructed. The shutterless steeple was completely exposed to the elements. The porch roof sat on jacks, above a torn apart section of rot. The porch itself lay sanded but unpainted. I always hate leaving a job half-done, but our extremely competent hosts / project managers, Connie and Claude, assured us they could finish the work we’d started.

The photos tell more than the words; check out my Flickr stream. And if there are any other Hausmans reading this, please add more photos to that stream … and add your own comments about the project below!