Falmouth Congregational Church United Church of Christ History: 1754-2014
The town of Falmouth was incorporated under the laws of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in 1718. Falmouth then covered most of what is now Westbrook, Cape Elizabeth, South Portland, Portland and Falmouth. In 1674 a church was organized as the Church of Christ in Falmouth, which is the First Parish Church of Portland today. Because of various wars, the region was practically deserted from 1690 until 1713, and all records were destroyed. On July 16, 1718, the First Parish of Falmouth was reorganized.
After several unsuccessful attempts to form a new parish, Nathaniel Noyes, Icabord Clark and fifty others petitioned the court in 1753 "to be set off as a district parish." The first Parish gave consent for this separation on November 23, 1753. In 1754 the Third Parish Church of Falmouth was organized in present-day Falmouth. It was voted "that Sixty Six pounds, thirteen Shillings and Four pence be raised to Defray Parrish charges the present year." Earlier, present-day Scarborough had become the Second Parish.
Three men preached at the Third Parish from 1754 to 1756. On November 3, 1756, John Wiswell was ordained and he served as Pastor of the Third Parish for nine years.
By 1814, Portland, Scarborough and the other towns had broken away, leaving the boundaries of Falmouth as they are today.
In 1828 some members of the Third Parish Church wanted to form a new parish, and in 1829 the Congregational Church Conference agreed to permit a division. Under this reorganization in 1830, the name of the Third Parish Church was changed to the First Congregational Society in Falmouth, and the Second Parish Church of Falmouth was organized. The Second Parish Church met without a building until May 1833 when the "Brick Church" was dedicated. The bricks for this building were burned on the banks of the Presumpscot River near the iron bridge of that time. This bridge crossed the Presumpscot on present-day Allen Avenue Extension. The parishioners themselves burned the bricks in Reuben Merrill's brickyard. The present parsonage, located next to the church, was purchased in 1867.
From 1830 to 1935, both the First Parish and Second Parish churches of Falmouth ministered separately to their congregations. From 1935 to 1943, the two churches shared ministers.
A newspaper article from our archives, written in 1938, sheds light on the history of the First Parish and its eventual union with the Brick Church. The article states: "the old First Congregational Church, on the road from Falmouth Corner to West Falmouth, now open only two Sundays in the year ..." On the other Sundays, worship was held in the Chapel on Falmouth Road near Lunt Road. In 1941 the old church building of the First Parish Church was razed.
In December, 1944, the First Parish Church voted to unite with the Second Parish Church, with the word Parish to be dropped by both churches, and the united church to be called the Falmouth Congregational Church. This new entity was incorporated on June 17, 1945.
On April 26, 1948, a Finance Committee met "to discuss ways and means of obtaining funds for the proposed Parish House." In the fall of 1955, under the leadership of the Reverend E. Milton Grant, the present parish hall was built adjacent to but separate from the church. In 1958 renovations were completed in the sanctuary. Classrooms and office space were added to the parish hall in 1972, under the leadership of the Reverend M. Ronald Beinema, responding to growth in membership.
On September 30, 2001, under the leadership of the Reverend Doctor Dawn C. Berry, the church membership voted to launch a capital campaign to renovate the chancel, connect the two buildings, and install a pipe organ. This renovation was completed in time to celebrate the 250th anniversary in the fall of 2004.
Since the renovation and the celebration the life of the church has continued on. Rev. Dawn moved on to a church in New Hampshire and an interim minister was called for two years. In 2010 a new minister was called, the Reverend Deborah Tate Breault. Under her leadership new families came into the church and the Church School program continued to expand. Rev. Deborah along with the Ministry of Justice and Outreach answered the call from African people who are immigrating into Portland. The church helped with housing, clothing, household items and many more concerns. In the summer of 2013 Rev. Breault completed her service to the church and went on to other endeavors.
In the fall of 2013 the Pastoral Search Committee recommended the Reverend Michael H. Richards be called as the Designated Pastor for the church. Pastor Michael began his minister the first of November. He is looking forward to the continued growth of the church and her work within the community and beyond.
Our church has experienced a long and rich history as attested to by thirteen generations and counting of Merrills and McCanns who continue to be active church members today.