Overlooking the bay, Foreside Community Church stands atop a hill, straddling the town line between Falmouth and Cumberland, ME. On Sunday mornings when it is warm enough, the front doors will be wide open as an invitation to all. Even when the Maine winter is bitingly harsh outside and the doors shut to keep out the cold, inside the refrain remains warmly the same – all are welcome here. “Come from the East and come from the West. Come regardless of age or race or sex or creed. Come not because you must, but because you may. Come because this is your Lord’s table and He bids you come.”
Our congregation is made up of individuals from many faith backgrounds, including many who grew up without a church affiliation. It includes seekers and sojourners. We are individuals with deep conviction and connection to God, and individuals with doubts, who are learning and exploring and seeking a relationship with God. We do not profess to have all the answers – but if you, too, are looking, please join us. Together we can journey towards greater understanding and connection to God, and gain insight into Jesus’ life and its meaning for us.
The Foreside Community Church stands on the boundary between the towns of Cumberland and Falmouth and was built on this line because people from both towns made up the congregation. In 1789, the first religious services were held on this site in a log church. Following two church fires, the three Sturdivant brothers, all Yarmouth Congregationalists, erected the present church in 1810. The church was incorporated in 1811 “for the use of the Methodist Society.”
For many years, the residents of both towns sat on their respective sides of the church and the pastor was required to preach from both sides of the central pulpit. Jesse Lee, Joshua Taylor, and George Whitefield (sent from England by the founder of Methodism, John Wesley) were among the famous early preachers occupying the pulpit. Calvinist, Presbyterian, Puritan, Congregationalist, and Methodist freewill theologies were all expounded in this church.
From 1935 to 1944, there had been 5 ministers with only 15 new members and average worship attendance of less than 20 people. One reason for the decline was a feeling of antipathy to the Methodist Conference because no contributions were made for church repairs. A meeting was held at the Foreside Fire House where a majority of members agreed something needed to be changed and at the next meeting it was decided the church would continue without a denominational connection. Dean Emeritus Everett W. Lord (who helped established the Boston University School of Business Administration and served as Dean of that College) was asked to serve temporarily as minister. During this time the Methodist Conference claimed full ownership of the property, but soon realized that the claim could probably not be established legally. Therefore, they gave the Foreside Community Church a quit-claim deed to the church and parsonage property. It was renamed Foreside Community Church and continued its non-denominational independence with membership in the Greater Council of Churches and in cordial fellowship with all Protestant churches. When Dean Lord retired 11 years later, the church membership had grown to 240.
The church building has had many improvements over the years. Foot warmers came first, then two stoves were installed—one on the Falmouth side and one on the Cumberland side. In 1886, the pastor built a stable and founded the Tuttle Road Methodist Church as a mission church. In 1903, electric lights were installed, followed by a heating system in 1925. In 1948, four classrooms were added under the church and a lectern and pulpit were installed on opposite sides of the chancel. Shutters, choir pews and a simple pipe organ came next. In 1949, the community hall was completed. From 1979—2000 classrooms were added on top of the community hall, an elevator installed, the sanctuary and organ renovated, the parsonage was sold and the house next to the church purchased to expand parking.
Seven ministers have served the Foreside Community Church since Dean Lord: Arthur B. Clarke, Donald F. Jennings, George W. Dillon, Peter M. Mercer, Donald G. Hodgson, Paul Shupe and Janet Dorman. In 1968, the Church affiliated with the United Church of Christ. Because of declining membership in 1971, there was a discussion of whether the church should be closed but with the arrival of Peter Mercer (1971), Don Hodgson (1975), and Paul Shupe (1987), a new period of growth and enthusiasm at the Foreside Community Church began.
In June of 2009, Janet Dorman was called as the new settled pastor. Since her arrival, the church has experienced new vitality. In May 2010, the church voted to become an Open and Affirming Congregation. In 2011, we celebrated the 200th anniversary of worship in this location, and we look forward in faith to continue our tradition of welcome and worship as we enter our third century.
The United Church of Christ came into being in 1957 with the union of two Protestant churches or “denominations.” They were the Evangelical and Reformed Church and the Congregational Christian Churches.
The Congregational Churches were organized when the Pilgrims of Plymouth Plantation (1620) and the Puritans of the Massachusetts Bay Colony (1629) acknowledged their essential unity in the Cambridge Platform of 1648.
The Reformed Church in the United States traced its beginnings to congregations of German settlers in Pennsylvania founded from 1725 on. Later, its ranks were swelled by Reformed immigrants from Switzerland, Hungary and other countries.
The Christian Churches sprang up in the late 1700s and early 1800s in reaction to the theological and organizational rigidity of the Methodist, Presbyterian and Baptist churches of the time.
The Evangelical Synod of North America traced its beginnings to an association of German Evangelical pastors founded in 1841 in Missouri. The Synod reflected the values of a union in 1817 between Lutheran and Reformed churches in Germany.
Through the years, other groups such as American Indians, Afro-Christians, Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders, Volga Germans, Armenians and Hispanic Americans joined with one of these antecedent churches. In recent years, members of other traditions—including Roman Catholic, evangelical and pentecostal Christians—have found a new home in the UCC, and so have gay and lesbian Christians who have been rejected by other churches.
The United Church of Christ celebrates and continues to embrace a broad variety of traditions in its common life.
Characteristics of the United Church of Christ
The characteristics of the United Church of Christ can be summarized in part by the key words in the names that formed our union: Christian, Reformed, Congregational, Evangelical.
Christian: By our very name, the United Church of Christ, we declare ourselves to be part of the Body of Christ—the Christian church. We continue the witness of the early disciples to the reality and power of the crucified and risen Christ, Jesus of Nazareth.
Reformed: All four denominations arose from the tradition of the Protestant Reformers: We confess the authority of one God. We affirm the primacy of the Scriptures, the doctrine of justification by faith, the priesthood of all believers, and the principle of Christian freedom. We celebrate two sacraments: baptism and the Lord’s Supper (also called Holy Communion or the Eucharist).
Congregational: The basic unit of the United Church of Christ is the congregation. Members of each congregation covenant with one another and with God as revealed in Jesus Christ and empowered by the Holy Spirit. These congregations, in turn, exist in covenantal relationships with one another to form larger structures for more effective work. Our covenanting emphasizes trustful relationships rather than legal agreements.
Evangelical: The primary task of the church is the proclamation of the Gospel or (in Greek) evangel. The Gospel literally means the “Good News” of God’s love revealed with power in Jesus Christ. We proclaim this Gospel by word and deed to individual persons and to society. This proclamation is the heart of the “leiturgia” in Greek, the “work of the people” in daily and Sunday worship. We gather for the worship of God, and through each week, we engage in the service of humankind.