A guitar made from a Universalist Unitarian Church of Brunswick pew which survived a 2011 fire stands in Jud Caswell's home recording studio in Brunswick on Jan. 22, 2013. Caswell used the guitar to record a song he wrote about the fire.
Carter Ruff and daughter Zoe listen through the recording studio window as Jud Caswell records a song he wrote about their church burning down. Caswell is playing a guitar built by Ruff from a surviving pew. Buy Photo
Steve Wellcome (from left) his wife, the Rev. Sylvia Stocker, Carter Ruff and daughter Zoe listen through the recording studio window as Jud Caswell records a song he wrote about their church burning down. Caswell is playing a guitar built by Ruff from a surviving pew. Stocker and Wellcome bought their guitar at auction. Buy Photo
Zoe Ruff, 9, listens through the recording studio glass as Jud Caswell records a song he wrote about the Universalist Unitarian Church of Brunswick burning down. Caswell is playing a guitar built by Ruff's father from a surviving pew. Buy Photo
Jud Caswell prepares to record a song in his home studio in Brunswick on Jan. 22, 2013, about his church burning down using a guitar made by another parishioner, Carter Ruff, from a surviving pew. Buy Photo
BRUNSWICK, Maine — The Rev. Sylvia Stocker smiled, gazing through the recording studio window. Her foot tapped gently to the music as she listened to a song about the day her church burned down.
Singing his song called “When the UU Burned Down” on the other side of the glass was parishioner and songwriter Jud Caswell. He played a guitar made from a pew that escaped the flames.
“It’s an amazing feeling, “ said Stocker, pastor at the Universalist Unitarian Church of Brunswick. “It’s an amazing thing to have it transformed into this beautiful thing, out of something that was dripping and soggy and smoky.”
Caswell didn’t waste any time writing the song after the building went up in flames in the summer of 2011.
“I wrote the song that day,” he said, sitting at the controls of his home recording studio Tuesday. “For a long time I really didn’t trust the song because I wrote it so fast, and I wrote it while I was still so close to it.
It wasn’t until later that summer that he found the nerve to sing it in public.
“We were about to have a homecoming potluck for our congregation,” said Stocker. “And Jud said, ‘I have this song I wrote. I’m just not sure.’ He brought his guitar into my office at work and sat down and sang this song to me. At the end, I was wiping my eyes.”
Caswell did, in fact, play it at the potluck and more than once at services since then. It’s also been featured on the church website with a slideshow of pictures depicting the aftermath of the fire.
Now that the song has been recorded again, on a guitar made from part of the church itself, Caswell plans to include it on his next album of original songs.
He thinks the guitar ranks among the church’s most precious items.
“It’s a pretty amazing memento. It’s a real treasure,” he said, holding the guitar. “There was a pipe organ [too] that hadn’t been used in years, and that was not saved. I guess this is going to be our replacement pipe organ …. It seems we’ve replaced one of the treasures that was lost.”