BANGOR – Declining membership over the years has forced the leadership at Grace United Methodist Church on Union Street into making the decision to close.
“They’ve been struggling for many years, financially in terms of numbers so not only financial resources but human resources have been dwindling,” said Arlene Tully, a coordinating pastor for Grace United.
“They’ve gotten to a point now where they’ll be running out of money soon,” she added later. “The few people who are left who are able to do the ministry, they’re getting older and many have developed some significant health problems. So there just isn’t the number of people that we need in order to keep the church going.”
The church opened its doors in 1855 and currently helps to feed the hungry with a free Saturday meal and by handing out around 4,000 pounds of food monthly to about 650 people.
“From its very beginning, it’s been a church that has been committed to being downtown and in ministry to the community in which it is situated,” Tully said. “Really it’s ground zero in the city of a Bangor for financial need, spiritual need, recovery kinds of ministry need. It’s just a really challenged neighborhood, and the church has always been committed to being a part of the neighborhood and serving the neighborhood.”
The last service is scheduled for 2 p.m. June 23 and will be a celebration of the history of the church.
“They’re deeply sad because this is, many have been there most of their lives, if not all of their lives,” Tully said of the congregation.
“But there is also a relief that their fight to survive is finally over,” she added.
Members have been invited to attend First United Methodist Church on Essex Street. The New England Conference of the United Methodist Church will decide what to do with the building, Tully said.
Church officials say they’re still looking for a church or organization to pick up their food for the needy program and to operate their thrift store.