Filipino church feeds expansion by buying Connecticut ghost town

(Japan Times) Over two decades, one prospective buyer after another passed over the abandoned village in the Connecticut countryside. There were requirements to preserve its historical character and problems with the septic system, not to mention rumors that it was haunted.

So when a Filipino church came forward and bought the deteriorating collection of Victorian-style buildings last week, local officials were elated the village would be saved from rotting away. An official with the church, Iglesia Ni Cristo, says it is not daunted because it has a history of repurposing shuttered buildings for its fast-growing membership.

“We purchase a lot of abandoned worship buildings and restore them,” said Joji Crisostomo, a district minister who oversees 32 congregations and missions for the church in the northeastern U.S. “That way people can use them again to reconnect with God.”

The relief in East Haddam has been mixed with curiosity over what exactly the church has planned for the community known as Johnsonville, which was home to twine mills in the 19th century before becoming a tourist attraction in the 1960s. The church bought the 62-acre property from a hotel group for $1.85 million.

“I’m looking forward to seeing what they’re going to do. Needless to say, there’s always a little apprehension,” said Emmett Lyman, East Haddam’s first selectman. “A willingness to accept other ideas and other approaches to life is part of the beauty of this town.”

No plans for the Connecticut property have been finalized, Crisostomo said, but a chapel will probably be restored as a new house of worship, and the church expects to keep the four residential properties and possibly add some more. If possible, he said, all the buildings will be restored, and there is also discussion of opening a Johnsonville museum. [More]

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Japan Times