Thursday, December 12, 2013
ADDRESS: 3 Stonecliff Road, Biddeford Pool
Union Church, established in 1864, was once open only in the summer. It is now a place of worship year-round.
Courtesy photo by Val Elwell
WORSHIP SPOTLIGHT is a weekly series focusing on places of worship in central and southern Maine. Information is submitted by the places of worship. For information, e-mail Religion@pressherald.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
HISTORY: Union Church was established in 1864 and has been serving Biddeford Pool and surrounding towns ever since with a legacy of faith and service to the community.
The historic Quaker meetinghouse-style church was originally a summer mission church with visiting preachers. In the 1950s and '60s, it was the place of worship for the household help at the Pool and held both morning and evening services to accommodate a variety of work schedules.
From 1983 to 1996, services were offered year-round, but membership declined and the church went back to being a place of worship only in the summer.
In 2000, when the church was considering closure, several members made a concerted effort to keep it open all year. After the Rev. Jan Hryniewicz was hired, the church once again opened its doors to year-round participants and has grown steadily in the past 10 years, providing worship, study, fellowship, mission outreach and a music ministry. The church was renovated in 2002 and a handicapped-access ramp was added.
Union Church is a growing community of faith where religious seekers have found a place that encourages spiritual exploration and diverse theological perspectives.
Congregants gather from Biddeford Pool, Hills Beach, Goose Rocks, Kennebunkport, Biddeford and Saco, nearly filling the church in the summer, while a more intimate community gathers during the winter months. The church has become known for its commitment to creative worship, mission and music.
It supports the Saco Feeding Program, Stone Soup Food Pantry in Biddeford, Caring Unlimited, Heifer Project International, Safe Passage and a variety of other local and international organizations and relief efforts. A group of knitters provides handmade prayer-comfort shawls for those going through difficult times, and scarves, hats and mittens for those in need.
A well-supported Summer Speaker Series, just concluding its ninth season, provides much of the funding for these outreach programs. This year, the church hosted authors Richard Russo, Dennis Lehane, Roland Merullo, Mameve Medwed and investigative reporter Ted Gup.
Sunday worship features the music of professional and amateur musicians: Wiley Beveridge, Michelle Currie, the Jen Comeau Band, guitarist Neal Zweig, Ada Goff, Nancy Bernier, Rob Duquette and Andrea Wollstadt, plus special visiting artists. These musicians have just recorded the church's second CD of songs, "Halleluiah."
WORSHIP SERVICES: 9:30 a.m. Sundays from May through October; 10 a.m. Sundays November through April.
PLANS: The church community has made a commitment to continue its mission efforts. The dream is to become a 50-50 church, with 50 percent of all pledges and earnings going to mission and outreach efforts and the other 50 percent to maintaining the programmatic church and its historic building.
CONTACT INFORMATION: 282-4172 or 934-2395; www.unionchurchme.com.