Joe Campbell is a pastor and early member of the White Pine Community Church, which is headquartered in North Yarmouth and holds Sunday services in Cumberland. Alex Lear / The Forecaster

NORTH YARMOUTH — Aiming to build a house of worship that will facilitate its growing congregation, White Pine Community Church recently closed on a Cumberland parcel where it plans in the coming years to build a new home.

Although based at its ministry center at 94 Cumberland Road in North Yarmouth, White Pine’s congregant size is too great for the 240-person space, causing the church to hold 10 a.m. Sunday services in the Greely Middle School gym in neighboring Cumberland since 2007.

White Pine closed last month on 20 acres at 14 Tuttle Road in Cumberland that sit near U.S. Route 1 and Foreside Road, Joe Campbell, the church’s programming and caring pastor and one of its earliest members, said Dec. 12. The church had already raised $700,000 for a future purchase, and a donor visiting from away and enthralled with White Pine contributed that same amount, having recently made $700,000 off a recent property sale.

That gave the church the $1.4 million in cash it needed to purchase the property, which is in Cumberland’s Low Density Residential zone, where churches are allowed.

“We couldn’t help but look at that and say, ‘God is so good,'” considering how things played out, Campbell said. “It was exactly what we needed.”

White Pine will begin developing site plans next spring or summer, and “we imagine that it’ll probably take us a couple of years to get to the point where we can get shovels in the ground,” he said, “because now we’ll be saving up for that next phase.” Amenities are still being determined.

The church would likely sell the ministry center it has occupied since 2011 once the new facility, estimated to cost $5-7 million, is built. With the future 27,000-square-foot building due to hold about 400-500 people, White Pine will hold multiple services each Sunday to accommodate its entire congregation; at Greely Middle it has only been able to hold one.

White Pine Community Church held its first service in 2001, just a week after the events of 9/11.

“There were a lot of people … looking for a sense of comfort and relief from the anxiety and the hurt that they were feeling over that,” Campbell recalled. “Right away, this served as an opportunity, as a place for people to come together and draw comfort from each other.”

“That was how it began, and what a great starting point, because from there it really became more and more of that,” now attracting upwards of 500 people from Portland up through Brunswick, Topsham, Gray and Casco, the Cumberland man said. “It is a very community-centric church,” which from its inception was nondenominational and contemporary in the music and relaxed feel it offered.

The White Pine Community Church has closed on a 20-acre parcel in Cumberland, where it plans to build a new church in the coming years to house its growing congregation.

That feel is sure to be part of White’s Pine’s community Christmas Eve service, to be held at Greely Middle School at 351 Tuttle Road from 4-5 p.m. Tuesday. Horse-drawn wagons will transport families who park at Greely High School to the middle school starting at 3 p.m. The one-hour service offers music, a live nativity scene with children, and candlelight.

“It has become a part of the Christmas tradition of a lot of the people in our communities,” Campbell said. “… It’s really a Christmas concert candle-lighting event.”

The ceremony concludes with all the electrical lights turned off, and candlelight filling the room. “It’s probably one of my favorite moments of the whole year, looking out at our whole community singing ‘Silent Night’ with candles lit,” Campbell said. “It’s such a peaceful and wonderful experience of just being together on Christmas Eve.”

Although held in a gym, the church – whose senior pastor is Greg Sidders – decks the walls with lights and sets up hundreds of chairs.

“It doesn’t feel like a gym when we’re in there,” Campbell said, adding, “the school has been incredibly gracious to have us.”

Given that the holidays can be tough on many, the church offers or takes part in a variety of events during the season: a women’s Christmas gathering earlier this month, and a Firefighters for Kids pancake breakfast at the Cumberland fire station, proceeds from which go toward toys for children in need.

More information on the church, which also assists local food pantries and the Preble Street Soup Kitchen and Root Cellar in Portland, can be found at whitepinechurch.org, and facebook.com/whitepinechurch.

Emily Bickford, a new church member, said Dec. 12 that she had looked around the region for a church that appealed to her, “as soon as I walked into White Pine, I knew … this was exactly what I was looking for,” she said. “This music is upbeat; it’s new Christian music.”

The church also provided a sense of relief during hard times.

“When you’re down throughout the week,” the Cumberland woman said, “you show up, and each of the sermons provides you with hope.”

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