RIVERHEAD, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — A Long Island church in grave danger of collapsing re-opened tonight — just in time for Christmas.

The First Congregational Church, of Riverhead, underwent urgent renovations after cracks were discovered in the main rafters — a crucial piece of the building that held up the roof and walls. Without repairs, the nearly 200-year-old church would have eventually caved in.

“When it was coming down it was heartbreaking for everyone,” Ron Blake, a church trustee, said.

Completion of the renovations in time for Christmas went right down to the wire. As CBS2’s Carolyn Gusoff reported, thick dust covered floors, rustic pews sat in storage, elaborate stained glass was boarded up, and scaffolding still filled the sanctuary only days before the big holiday.

But on Christmas Eve, the church will welcome hundreds of worshipers,  devoted congregants and community volunteers for a special candlelight mass.

Some local congregants feared their beloved house of worship would literally collapse.

“It’s a Christmas miracle that its done, it’s a miracle that it didn’t fall down,” one congregant said.

Historic contractor Richard Cox, of R.C. Construction began renovating the church in June, rebuilding the roof and pulling in the walls. With new steel supports, the church now has new life for another century.

“We would not be standing in this building right now,” Richard Cox, of R.C. Construction, said. “This would have came down.”

Church members continue fundraising efforts to help pay for the rennovations, and hope to raise enough money to restore the exterior as well.

Cost of the renovation could run around a half a million dollars. For information on the Church’s Go-fund me page, head check out their website here.


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