Brunswick church hopes to raise $2.5M for renovations

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BRUNSWICK — First Parish Church is launching a $2.5 million capital campaign to make improvements to the sanctuary and offices.

The campaign will mark the 300th anniversary of the historic Congregational church at the Cleveland and Maine streets , where speakers including the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Eleanor Roosevelt addressed parishioners.

The renovations – also to include the adjacent Pilgrim House, which houses the church offices – will expand opportunities for church programming and participation, as well as increase comfort and safety for parishioners, campaign co-chairwoman Mercie Normand said last week.

New seating, ramps and a new elevator are intended to “give flexibility to the worship experience” by making the space more accessible to people of all physical abilities, campaign co-chairman Hector Casas said.

Of the major projects, the church will replace the sections of pews on either side of the sanctuary pulpit with comfortable chairs.

Not only are chairs more comfortable for those who have difficulty sitting in rigid, shallow-seated pews, but they can be removed to make room for event and performance space at the front of the church, Casas said.

The newly expanded space will provide more space for the church choir, which usually sings from a balcony at the back of the church, and accommodate risers to make performances like the Christmas pageant easier to see from the back pews.

The church will also install a ramp leading up to the pulpit.

Right now, speakers who wish to read passages during services or address the congregation from the pulpit must climb a shallow, curved set of steps, which prevents some parishioners from participation, Casas and Normand said.

Although the church installed a ramp from the vestry into the sanctuary last year to aid disabled parishioners, “what they can’t do is really participate in the worship service,” Normand said.

At Pilgrim House, behind the Church at 9 Cleveland St., an elevator will be added near the rear entrance, creating access to the building’s second floor and basement.

While the first floor is almost entirely offices, the building’s second floor houses a large auditorium that can’t be fully taken advantage of because it is only accessible by stairs.

The elevator is “not just for people who have differing abilities, but also (for) parents with strollers, people who just had knee surgery, etc.,” Normand explained.

With the elevator, she said, the congregation would also like to offer the space to programs from the wider community.

Additionally, the church will add a ramp and a new anteroom to the front entrance of Pilgrim House, install accessible bathrooms, make energy upgrades to the building, and alter the church sanctuary to provide greater audiovisual capabilities.

The capital campaign will launch in April, Casas said, with the hope of reaching the projected goal by late June.

A time-line for construction is yet to be be determined. Casas and Normand said work is likely to take place in stages to interfere as little as possible with the church’s services and programs. 

Callie Ferguson can be reached at 781-3661, ext. 100, or cferguson@theforecaster.net. Follow Callie on Twitter: @calliecferguson.

First Parish Church in Brunswick will mark its 300th anniversary with a $2.5 million captial campaign to make worship services and programing spaces more accessible.

Brunswick’s 300-year-old First Parish Church will embark on a $2.5 million fundraising campaign for renovations that will include replacing pews flanking the pulpit with removable seats and installation of a ramp for pulpit access.

First Parish Church in Brunswick will add an anteroom and ramp at the front entrance to offices at Pilgrim House. An elevator will be installed at the rear entrance to provide access to a second-floor auditorium. 

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Reporting on municipal, school, and community news in Brunswick and Harpswell. Bowdoin graduate, Wild Oats sandwich-eater. Callie can be reached at 207-781-3661 ext. 100, or cferguson@theforecaster.net.