Longtime Bath church returns to downtown roots

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BATH — After a few months in a temporary location, the Neighborhood United Church of Christ has landed in a new home at 798 Washington St.

The church fills the space occupied since 2009 by the Admiral Steakhouse, which closed last month.

“With the purchase of our new facility today, we are excited to find ourselves once again in the heart of the city of Bath,” church Pastor Bill Bliss said in an email April 1, the day the building sale closed. “We have a history of being a downtown congregation, and are happy to be back. We look forward to developing our new location as a sacred space, and as a place for community connections.”

The church had been operating at a temporary site, the Minnie Brown Center at 906 Washington St., since selling its 150 Congress Ave. building in January to the New Meadows Childcare & Learning Center, a tenant there for eight years.

While the church’s former 20,000-square-foot building was built four decades ago with a sanctuary that seats 450 people, Bliss said last August, the church culture has changed, with only 50 or 60 people showing up most Sundays. The church consequently had too much space and set its sights on a smaller spot downtown.

Now that it’s there, the first priority is to “design a simple worship space that supports spiritual nurture,” the pastor said. “It’ll take a little while to develop the design for a sanctuary that converts to a dining room. Our plan is to move in and get a feel for the new space and then see what people think will work.”

The church has also hosted a Tuesday evening neighborhood cafe that tends to draw 100-150 people. Bliss expressed hope last year that a new location would provide better accessibility for those with limited transportation, and that the cafe will be open more frequently.

“The Neighborhood Cafe is thrilled to have a professional restaurant kitchen to work with,” Bliss said. “The possibilities are limitless. We look forward to reopening the cafe in early May for its sixth year of offering a free, four-course meal for all our neighbors on Tuesday evenings. We’re also exploring ways to expand the cafe to daily operation, inspired by the Gathering Place in Brunswick.”

The church this summer hopes to beautify the facility’s asphalt parking lot with a community park and garden, Bliss added.

The last day of business at the Admiral Steakhouse, meanwhile, was March 27.

Owners Joe and Pam Byrnes said they closed the restaurant because of personal and health issues they face.

“We hope to slow down and ease into retirement,” Joe Byrnes said on the restaurant’s Facebook page.

The Byrnes’s two Irish pubs – at 38 Centre St. in Bath and 16 Station Ave. in Brunswick – will continue to operate, and be run by their children, Patrick and Maggie, Byrnes added.

Alex Lear can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 113 or alear@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @learics.

Sidebar Elements

The Neighborhood United Church of Christ has a new home at 798 Washington St. in Bath, previously the Admiral Steakhouse. Pastor Bill Bliss, right, said the church has been welcomed to downtown Bath by many people, including Sarah Krajewski, left, residential services coordinator for the nearby Washington House.

A Maine native and Colby College graduate, Alex has been covering coastal communities since 2001, and currently handles Bath, Topsham, Cumberland, and North Yarmouth. He and his wife, Lauren, live in the Portland area, and Alex recently released his third album of original music.