The Rock Church has abandoned plans to move into a building on Route 1A in Holden after the Maine Department of Transportation said they would have to spend about $600,000 to widen the road. Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik

A fast-growing church in the Bangor area has abandoned plans to move into a building on Route 1A in Holden that it was eyeing as its fourth location in the region.

The decision from the Rock Church came after the Maine Department of Transportation said it would have had to widen the busy road to add a left-turn lane in front of the property, Pastor Kirk Winters said.

Kirk Winters, senior pastor of The Rock Church in Bangor. Credit: Linda Coan O’Kresik | BDN

The new church was expected to cost about $805,000 to complete, but widening the road would have cost an additional $500,000 to $750,000, Winters said, making it cost prohibitive.

The Rock Church already has locations in Bangor, Old Town and Hampden. The Holden church would have been on the lot where Pete’s Pretty Good Ice Cream stood.

About 150 members had expressed interest in worshiping at the Holden location because it was closer to their homes, the pastor said.

The church will continue to search for a suitable location in Holden but will focus its current expansion efforts on Hampden, where the church is renting space at the former Hampden Academy, also on Route 1A.

“We were initially disappointed, but understand the DOT’s concerns,” Winters said. “That is a very busy road, and we would hate to have a serious accident there.”

The average annual daily traffic on Route 1A in Holden is approximately 20,000 vehicles, according to Paul Merrill, spokesperson for the transportation department.

Left to right, J Mann, a pastor at The Rock Church in Bangor, walks through a new building in Holden that was going to become the Holden campus of The Rock. Work being done in the building on Rt.1A in Holden where The Rock Church was going to open a Holden campus. The church has abandoned plans to move into the building after the Maine Department of Transportation said they would have to spend about $600,000 to widen the road. Credit: Linda Coan O’Kresik | BDN

“Based on the left-turn volumes estimated for the new facility and the existing traffic volumes on the highway, Maine DOT has determined that a left-turn lane is warranted and required for the safety of drivers turning left into the property as well as those traveling towards Bangor,” he said. “This change would also improve safety for pedestrians and bicyclists who use the area.”

The church would have had to pay to widen the road because businesses, churches and other entities are required to mitigate their traffic impacts on the roadway system, according to the transportation department.

Jeremy Mann, who planned to be the minister at the Holden church, will lead the Hampden congregation instead, according to Winters.

Winters, who grew up in Brewer, moved back to the Bangor area in 2005 from Portland, where he started the first Rock Church in Maine.

The name is a reference to the Bible verse Matthew 16:18: “And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”

J Mann, pastor (left), and Kirk Winters, senior pastor at The Rock Church in Bangor, talk about expansion plans for the church outside of a new building in Holden that was going to be home to the Holden campus. The church has abandoned plans to move into the building on Route 1A after the Maine Department of Transportation said they would have to widen the road. Credit: Linda Coan O’Kresik | BDN

He started The Rock Church in Bangor at a time when the church he grew up in and another evangelical church in Bangor were experiencing difficulties. The pastor’s roots in the area, his emphasis on modern church music, a relaxed worship style and de-emphasis on liturgy helped the congregation grow faster than any other in more than 50 years.

The Bangor church is located on 10½ acres at the corner of Ohio Street and Finson Road in Bangor. It has expanded twice out of necessity, once in 2012 and again in 2020, as 1,000 worshippers regularly attend three Sunday services. The sanctuary now seats 550.

Attendance at this year’s Easter services on April 17 was 1,402 worshipers at services in Bangor, 270 worshipers at three services in Old Town and 140 worshipers at one service in Hampden, Winters said.

Winters attributes his church’s rapid growth to “the grace of God.”