Parishioners of the first North Windham Union Church attended services here. The building was moved and is now the Little Meetinghouse. Contributed / Windham Historical Society

The North Windham Union Church, UCC, has been an integral part of our town’s community for over 150 years. The congregation’s first church, referred to as the little church, was built in North Windham in 1871 with the Rev. James Aikins as head of the congregation.

The North Windham Union Church, UCC, is housed today in the former Parish House. Contributed / Gail Small

By 1929, the parish of which the church was a part, the Presumpscot Union Parish, had grown to include five churches. They were in East Raymond, Raymond, North Gorham, South Windham and North Windham. The Rev. Clarence Clark was in charge of all five churches. To fulfill the needs of all of his congregations, he worked with part-time preachers and hired summer workers to tend to his growing flock.

On June 8, 1930, the present church was organized. Thirty-three people were admitted into membership. These churchgoers often heard the preaching of part-time Minister Naomi Cue, who came from Portland each Sunday to preach to three of the five churches.

The church continued to prosper over the years and began coming up with ideas to help people in the community who were in need. One such endeavor was the North Windham Union Church Thrift Shop, which opened its doors on Oct. 1, 1959. The original thrift shop was located in a small building next door to the church. The church’s Ladies Guild explored other thrift shops in the area, researching the best way to set up their shop. By the 1970s, the business was thriving. It had been relocated to the church’s basement and was staffed by a number of dedicated volunteers, including Cuddy Dunham, who worked as a volunteer clerk for over 40 years and retired in 2011 at age 90. The shop is still open today. Regular hours are Wednesdays and Thursdays from 10 a.m. to noon. It’s also open on the occasional Saturday, including from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Oct. 22 and from 10 a.m. to noon Oct. 29 and Nov. 5.  You can find some wonderful bargains there on clothing, household items, books and toys, among other things.

The church has operated its Thrift Shop since 1959. Contributed / Gail Small

Also in 1959, the church’s Parish House was built and dedicated on May 10. The following year, the Rev. John Pierce took over as minister. It was then that the North Windham Union Church withdrew from the Presumpscot Union Parish due to an extremely high Sunday school enrollment and other overwhelming demands.

In 1964, under the leadership of the Rev. Joan Williams, the North Windham Union Church joined the United Church of Christ. The current sanctuary was erected in 1994 under the direction of the Rev. Richard Small, the parish leader at the time, and the Rev. Harold “Hal” Shephard, his assistant pastor.

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Through its community involvement and spiritual dedication, the North Windham Union Church has continued to grow and expand. The congregation has about  270 people these days, with 70-100 present on Sundays for church services.

The church’s mission/outreach projects include the Preble Street Resource Center, the Windham Food Pantry, the RSU 14 Backpack Program and Neighbors Helping Neighbors, and they occasionally host Red Cross blood drives. Their “Music With a Mission” concert series has raised thousands of dollars for people in need by showcasing the musical talent of popular performers. The church also provides meeting space to community groups.

Through it all, the mission of the church has remained the same: to grow in faith through understanding of Scripture, to reach out to the community in service, to include families in a robust program of Christian advocacy, to increase fellowship, and to expand the congregation by meeting the spiritual needs of the community.

“Each week as we gather, there is a sense that we are a family,” said the current pastor, the Rev. Debra Girard. “There is a joy in the work we do.”

It is that joy that has kept this parish flourishing and gaining membership year after year. It is why the North Windham Union Church UCC has come to be known by some as “the heart of our community.”

Haley Pal, a Windham, resident and an active member of the Windham Historical Society, can be contacted at [email protected]

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