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First Parish to dedicate redesigned building

From First Parish

PORTLAND – Next Tuesday, First Parish in Portland, a Unitarian Universalist congregation, will dedicate major accessibility and media additions to its historic building and garden.

The event will take place at 1:30 p.m. at the church’s new, accessible entrance in the rear plaza shared with Portland High School (PHS), and will include Mayor Kate Snyder and Steve Bromage, Executive Director of the Maine Historical Society.

The church is located at 425 Congress Street in Portland.

The redesign includes an elevator, improvements to the enclosed garden on Congress Street, upgrades to the interior sound and light systems, and renovation of the Community Room and its attached kitchen. It is funded by the “A Church for EveryBody” accessibility project, a $1.5 million capital campaign.

The new entrance at the rear of the First Parish Church’s historic building on Congress Street in Portland. The redesigned building will be dedicated in a ceremony next Tuesday. (Photo courtesy of First Parish Church)

The City of Portland awarded a Community Development Block Grant to the campaign to enhance the public events and performances offered there. Additionally, the City will collaborate with First Parish by making improvements to the plaza that include installation of new lighting and proposed upgrades to “Freshman Alley,” which PHS students use to great advantage during their lunch periods. The plaza and the alleyways invite pedestrians to enjoy the walkways linking Elm, Chestnut, and Congress streets.

First Parish’s Meeting House has always been central to Portland’s and Maine’s cultural, spiritual, and political lives. The original First Parish church built in Falmouth, Massachusetts Colony, now Portland, Maine, dates from 1674. In 1740, the second wooden Meeting House, known as Old Jerusalem, was erected at the present location at 425 Congress Street. Maine’s constitution was debated and framed here in 1819. The present granite structure opened its doors in 1826. First Parish has always hosted citywide religious events, civic meetings, community gatherings, and musical events. As Unitarian Universalists, the congregation practices a liberal religion. Affirming the worth of all humans, the church advocates freedom of belief and the search for advancing truth.

The First Parish church on Congress Street in Portland is dedicating its redesigned parish building next Tuesday. (Photo courtesy of First Parish Church)

The Meeting House is both elegant and functional, but many of its distinct architectural features have not accommodated full and easy access to its spaces. “This accessibility project brings a 200-year-old icon in Portland into the 21st century in a way that will make it now available and welcoming to all,” declares Austin Farrar, President of the First Parish Board of Trustees. Austin Farrar and Ted Oldham, co-chairs of the “A Church for EveryBody” campaign, thank all donors for their generous contributions to this important project.

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