Second Congregational Church members, housed in what is known by some as ‘the white church,’ are making plans to move to a smaller location better suited for its needs in Biddeford. COURTESY PHOTO/J. Wishbone

BIDDEFORD — After more than 200 years, the congregation of a downtown Biddeford church is on the move looking for a smaller space.

Founded in 1795, Second Congregational Church on Crescent Street has been colloquially known as “the white church,” and is a downtown landmark. The aging church, assessed in 2017 at more than $1 million, requires more time and work than the congregation can provide, leaving members searching for a better fit.

“The church is a huge, historical building that just doesn’t meet our needs,” said the Rev. Catherine Anglea, who has been with the parish since 2014. “We’re a small congregation, and we’re spending more time taking care of the building than doing the work.”

According to Anglea, the church is built for a large congregation of about 400 people, and the dwindling numbers of the congregation make the large space unnecessary.

“It’s a decision that unfortunately many churches have had to make, and it’s very sad,” Anglea said.

As the congregation prepares to move, they start the work of ensuring that they leave the building ready for the next step, with a clear title on the property, so that the new owner will be able to do what they want with the building.

“We’re getting all our ducks in a row, whether the next owner will want to take down the building or reuse it in a different way,” Anglea said. “If they take it down, we’ll reach out to salvage companies for the building materials, we’ll have people come look to save the windows.”

For a new space, the congregation will look for something that will better suit their services as a church, including not only a worship space, but also a facility for its Bon Appetite meal program, which provides food for the area’s less fortunate.

While church officials are not working with a broker, only an advisor, they have viewed three undisclosed locations in the area, all with one nonnegotiable feature; they’re all in the downtown.

“We want to stay in the downtown Biddeford area. People expect us to be here, and count on the services we provide,” Anglea said.

Repairs to the building in the past were, for the most part, she said, all superficial, leaving the necessary repairs, like problems with the foundation, untouched.

“I’ve been telling the congregation that I was hired to be a pastor, not a building manager,” said Anglea.

To celebrate the end of the tenure in the building, the congregation will hold a final concert in the space at 7 p.m. Saturday, June 15, featuring the Sulcappello Ensemble. The concert will be a “farewell to the white church” and a five-year retrospective leading up to the congregations move.

“We’ve always had many concerts at the church. Because of the way it’s built, the acoustics are beautiful,” Anglea. “The way sound travels in that place is incredible.”

The concert will be directed by John Sullivan, who has a long history of providing music to the congregation. Also an organist, Sullivan has organized many a musical event at the church, and, according to Anglea, this last one will be an appropriate farewell to the building.

“We’ve been so lucky to have John as our director,” Anglea said. “It’s always beautiful.”

Concert admission is a suggested $10 donation, allowing those who cannot pay the price, or pay as much, to attend and enjoy the music, a policy that has been in place at the congregation for a number of years.

“We want to make sure that the music is enjoyed by everyone who wants to hear it,” Anglea said. “Money shouldn’t stop them.”

While the congregation is in the early stages of the move, Anglea hopes that by summer’s end it will have a new home. While she said that the advisors and legal team the congregation is working with would currently entertain a bid, should one come in, they are currently working on the details and taking their time to find something “marvelous.”

“At the end of the day, we are God’s people,” Anglea said. “Not people of a building.”

Contact Staff Writer Abigail Worthing at [email protected].

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