BIDDEFORD – Less than 24 hours after the Rev. Joel McLain and his wife, Maxine, were killed in a traffic accident in New Hampshire, members of Victory Chapel and visitors from other churches packed the pews Sunday evening, standing and singing with their hands in the air.
Some slapped tambourines and others clapped to the beat of the hymns, while the late Pentacostal pastor’s grandson kept time on a drumset in the corner of the church.
The energy was high and the message was clear: the McLains were in good hands.
The couple, both 77, were traveling on Route 202 in Barrington, N.H., around 11:35 p.m. Saturday when a Ford Ranger pickup truck driven by 48-year-old John Shaw of Barrington crossed the centerline and hit the Ford Edge driven by Joel McLain, who died at the scene, N.H. State Police said.
Maxine McLain, who was in the front passenger seat, was taken to Frisbie Memorial Hospital in Rochester, N.H., where she died from her injuries.
Shaw was taken to the hospital with serious injuries. Police said they are still investigating why he drove into oncoming traffic.
The McLains were on their way back to Biddeford from Beulah Fellowship Family Campground in Canterbury, N.H., where the minister was leading services for a weekend-long convention, said his daughter, Beatrix Tucci of Portland.
They planned to be at the regular Sunday night service at Victory Chapel, when evangelist Israel Ochoa was scheduled to fill in for McLain as guest preacher, and then return to New Hampshire on Monday, the last day of the convention.
Although they never made it back, the service went on as planned.
“It was what he would have wanted, to see the work go on,” Tucci said about her father.
McLain, who was brought up in Rockland without religion, found God while serving in the Air Force, his daughter said.
After getting out of the service, he helped start new churches while working in the restaurant business, she said. He and his first wife, Pauline, the mother of his six children, moved to Biddeford in 1982, when he got the job as pastor of Victory Chapel, according to her obituary in the Portland Press Herald. She died in 2009.
McLain never thought he’d marry again, his daughter said. Then, one day, he walked down the aisle of his church and saw a smile that changed his mind.
Tucci said Maxine had come to the church when her father first started preaching there, but later moved to Florida. She would attend services when she was back in town visiting relatives. Tucci thinks she came for another reason, too.
“She was interested,” she said.
After a brief courtship over the phone, they got married a year ago in August.
“They told me, ‘You really tied the knot good,”‘ said the Rev. Stephen Reynolds of Scarborough, who performed the ceremony.
They acted “like teenagers again,” Reynolds said, always giggling. “They just had fun. They really enjoyed each other.”
Members of Victory Chapel offered tesitmony about their pastor during the Sunday evening worship, and their words were met with amens and hallelujahs from the crowd. They talked about how he took his shoes off before he preached and always made time to visit his friends and parishioners.
Tucci said her father didn’t consider his work to be a job, but that he was “doing for God.” And he always planned to continue as long as he could.
“It kept him going,” she said.
Leslie Bridgers can be contacted at: 791-6364 or at: