BELFAST — On Dec. 10 a local church will celebrate the restoration of its lights.

Built in 1796, The First Church in Belfast, United Church of Christ, has seen the bulk of American history. For over two centuries the landmark house of worship has overlooked the harbor — and provided safe harbor for generations of parishioners.

As one of the dominant features of the Belfast skyline, the church steeple and bell tower serve as a benchmark of sorts. Adorned with a spectacular clock and a bell that tolls the hour, the steeple at The First Church in Belfast is iconic.

In 2006, that benchmark became a beacon when the church first installed lights in the steeple.

“We got here in 2004 and the steeple was not lit,” said the Rev. Joel Krueger, who co-pastors the church with is wife, the Rev. Dr. Kate Winters. “After a few years we began to ask, we have this beautiful church and this beautiful steeple, why don’t we light it up at night?”

Making the lighting a priority, Pastor Krueger obtained permission from the church council to install spotlights in the steeple’s bell tower.

“Everybody liked it,” Krueger said.

The steeple spotlights were so popular the church decided to install permanent lighting in 2008. At that time a contractor recommended installing colored lights as well.

“We weren’t interested,” Krueger said. “It seemed like too much of an extravagance.”

The steeples lights shone brightly over Belfast until 2019 when the steeple was renovated, and finials (urn-shaped ornaments on the steeple corners) were added. The steeple lights were removed during the renovation and the steeple has remained dark since that time.

That time is ending.

The ceremony to dedicate new flood and LED lighting Dec. 10 will take place on the church’s front lawn at 5 p.m. The dedication will also celebrate an additional feature.

“The chair of our trustees, Todd Hall, had a vision,” Krueger explained. “It was about not just replacing the white lights, but doing something more special and bringing in colored lights.”

Hall and the church began investigating the cost of replacing the floodlights, and adding colored lights, in 2021. In May 2022 the project was approved by the church’s board of trustees.

“It was fascinating to see how many people missed the lights,” Hall said. “What was there before wasn’t very much, but people noticed. The addition of the colored LED lighting is exciting.”

In October electricians installed the flood and colored lights that will illuminate the steeple into the future.

New lighting has been installed at The First Church in Belfast. A dedication ceremony will take place at the church on Dec. 10. Photo courtesy of Todd Hall.

While the Dec. 10 dedication will celebrate the return of the floodlights, the colored lights will be turned on a few days later.

“The colored lights have to be programmed,” Krueger said. “The guy that does that won’t be coming until the following week, but he’ll teach some of the members how to program the lights.”

The programmable colored lights will allow the church to display lighting of any color and will be used in support of causes or organizations that identify with those colors.

Regardless of their color, Krueger is pleased to have the lights return.

“I’ve really missed the lights,” Krueger said. “The lights are a reminder of God’s love, and to live in that love.”