Friday, March 7, 2014
HISTORY: First United Methodist Church, also known as Brown's Hill Methodist Church, has been a beacon in South Portland for many years.
In 1800, the Methodists began to hold meetings, and in 1824, the meeting house was moved to its present site on the corner of Church Street and Ridgeland Avenue.
In 1871, a bell cast in Paul Revere's foundry in Boston was purchased and placed in the steeple. The bell is still owned by the church with hopes of placing it in a new steeple in the future.
The church tracker-action pipe organ was built in Boston about 1888 by Cole and Woodbury and was purchased in 1934 by the Rev. Leslie Grundy. It was brought to South Portland piece by piece and reassembled. The organ continues to be an important part of Sunday services.
In July 1932, the original 55-foot steeple was struck by lightning. When rebuilt, the steeple was 20 feet shorter. This caused some concern with the Coast Guard, as the former steeple had been used as a marine landmark, guiding ships through Portland Harbor. In 1997, that steeple was removed because of structural damage.
The ''church on the hill'' has had many physical changes over the past 207 years. It was chosen as a historic landmark in 1988, and a plaque denoting this is on the front of the church.
WORSHIP SERVICES: 9 a.m. Sunday, with Holy Communion celebrated the first Sunday of the month. A coffee fellowship follows each service. The building is handicapped-accessible.
FUTURE PLANS: Active in reaching out to the community, First United Methodist Church collects food for the South Portland Food Cupboard, gathers clothing for several shelters and provides Thanksgiving baskets to those in need. The church also is involved in Toys for Tots and providing stuffed animals for the pediatric cancer unit at Maine Medical Center.
Members provide outreach communion to shut-ins and collect ''Bags of Grace,'' personal items for the social services agency Preble Street. Members also give generously to United Methodist Committee on Relief to help those in need worldwide.
The church building is available for community meetings and has hosted Girl Scout, Boy Scout, Cub Scout and Brownie meetings. Presently, an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting is held at the church three nights a week.
There is an ongoing capital fund campaign to raise money to replace the steeple, and the community is very helpful in donating bottles for the steeple fund.
On the second Saturday of each month, there is a fundraising meal: In the winter, fish, corn or clam chowder meals are served, and the menu changes to a lobster roll meal in spring and summer.