Grace United Methodist Church in Bangor will hold its last worship service on June 30 and close its doors after serving the community near Union and Thirds streets for more than 160 years.
“They have been struggling financially for a while now,” said the Rev. Arlene Tully, pastor of First United Methodist Church in Bangor and the administrative minister for Grace UMC. “The church has been operating at a deficit for years.”
Over the past decade, the church near downtown Bangor, completed in 1855, has depleted its endowment funds to keep its doors open.
Church leadership made the decision last month to close and announced it to the small congregation at the April 28 worship service.
Between eight and 15 people, most of whom are elderly, have been attending worship services at Grace each Sunday for the past year or so, compared with the 100 or so who attend weekly services at First UMC on Essex Street, Tully said last week.
Recent expensive repairs have included work on the boiler and a stained-glass window, she said.
“Now, the belfry is literally falling off in chunks into the parking lot,” the minister said.
The congregation is hoping the thrift shop and weekly food pantry it runs will be absorbed by other churches or organizations, Tully said.
Because the food distribution program does not require income information, it serves 640 individuals a month and hands out about 4,000 pounds of food, according to Tully. But keeping those programs going has been difficult with the aging congregation, she said.
The New England Conference of the United Methodist Church, not the congregation, is the owner of the church building. That body will decide in June whether to sell the structure.
It will be up to individual members to decide where to continue worshipping, Tully said. Church records will be transferred to First UMC in Bangor after Grace UMC closes.
Grace UMC will hold a celebration of its history on June 23.
History of Grace United Methodist Church
1846 — Grace organized out of Summer Street Mission Society.
1854 — Land at corner of Union and Clinton streets purchased for $1,100.
1855 — Union Street Methodist Episcopal Church completed at cost of $15,000.
1896 — Dome replaced a steeple damaged by storm and high winds.
1939 — Church renamed Grace Methodist Church after merger of three Methodist groups.
1948 — Permastone facade placed on outside of wooden building.
1954 — 100th anniversary of church celebrated.
1967 — Bangor’s first Operation Head Start school meets in church basement.
1968 — Church renamed Grace United Methodist Church after merger of the Evangelical United Brethren and Methodist denominations.
1970 — Extensive renovations to sanctuary completed.
1989 — Church becomes handicapped-accessible with installation of elevator.
1996 — Grace designated first church in Maine in Shalom Zone program, which emphasized outreach to the surrounding neighborhood.
2004 — Church celebrates 150th anniversary, opens thrift shop.
2008 — Penobscot County Probate Court rules church may use fund designated for new building for capital improvements to current building.
2019 — Congregation decides to close after last service June 30.
Source: Grace United Methodist Church