Baptism by fire
Historic St. Anne’s Church in Waterbury, CT. suffered two fires in the 1970s. Gorgeous stained glass windows were lost. Smoke damage was extensive. Spectacular, colorful life-sized statues were beyond recognition.
The devastation continued when the church learned that insurance money would cover only a fraction of the costs. Enter Scott Whipple: local artist, painter, builder, restorer and philanthropist.
“I was overwhelmed… intimidated,” he said, at the thought of restoring any of St. Anne’s life-sized statues. Scott had never worked on anything so large.
But he jumped right in, starting with a smaller statue of St. Francis of Assisi and working his way up. Baptism by fire.
Everyone – clergy and parishioners – loved his work so he kept on going.
His favorite part about the process? Giving people back their cherished memories of church, one statue at a time. Despite his immense talent, Scott remains humble. “I’m still learning all the tricks of restoration. I’m learning as I go.”
“Nothing I could fix”
Fast-forward a few years and a few miles to his current project: The Blessed Sacrament Parish, also in Waterbury, CT.
His focus: the church’s Christmas scene.
“I had heard that nativity set that they set up every year was really tiny with mismatched pieces,” he says. He knew he couldn’t fix the figures with his own two hands it so he took a different route with his generosity.
Scott chipped in for a brand new nativity scene. After researching online he chose the 11-piece, 27-inch Joseph Studio set from ChristmasNight Inc. The collection was more than a pleasant surprise. He described its arrival “as one of those rare instances when you take something out of the box and say, ‘It’s even better than the photograph!'”
He then bought lumber and began building a manger. With a handyman’s skill he set up interior lighting. Wanting the beautiful display to be eye-level, he restored an old altar table from St. Anne’s so the figures could sit on the table itself rather than on the floor.
The idea is that people won’t simply look at the scene of the birth of Christ, but rather step right into it. The viewers will actually stand under the stable’s roof.
“You become part of it,” Scott says.
Hard to think of a better way of celebrating Christmas than by becoming part of it.
Lights, Camel, Action!
See photos of Scott’s work below…