A downtown Bangor church that has spent the last four years helping local homeless people, drug users and ex-inmates is trying to set up a permanent home in the neighborhood where much of its congregation is.
The local Christian ministry, the Mansion Church, wants to relocate to a building at 126 Third St., an area of the city where many of its parishioners live, including people suffering from drug addiction or experiencing homelessness or those trying to build a future after serving time at Penobscot County Jail.
But the church, which has around 75 active members, is struggling to get the approval it needs from the city to move there, delaying its plans to extend its Sunday services, hold daily Bible studies and pass out clothes to people living in the neighborhood.
The Mansion’s efforts come as the state grapples with a growing opioid crisis, which last year killed an average of more than person per day.
“We have a huge drug problem in our city and it’s an epidemic,” Terry Dinkins, the Mansion Church’s pastor and founder, said Wednesday. “It seemed like a good fit for us —to be a light in a very dark place.”
The church had an opportunity to own the building for free through the Crosspoint Church and had raised $12,000 in donations to renovate it. But the building sits in a residentially zoned neighborhood, and the church could not open there unless the planning board and city council voted to relax rules around the kinds of organizations that are allowed to operate there.
Members of the planning board unanimously rejected the rezoning Tuesday, saying the space lacked enough parking.
The Mansion Church started holding Sunday night services at the Columbia Street Baptist Church in Bangor in 2013 but in January became affiliated with the Crosspoint Church, formally the Bangor Baptist Church — which it says more closely aligns with its beliefs. It has since moved its Sunday services to the Bangor Masonic Center on Union Street and holds bi-weekly Bible studies at the Bangor Public Library, Dinkins said.
A downtown location is important for the church since most of its parishioners do not have licenses to drive or cars and attend Sunday worship by foot or through the church’s van service. That’s why Dinkins believes the church could relocate to a building at a cramped 6,534-square-foot site that has little parking.
Now the church is reviewing its options, including finding another nearby parking lot that could service the church, Dinkins said.