Following a five-plus decade run at its location on 7 Eustis Parkway, Waterville’s First Congregational Church United Church of Christ has moved its operations to a new space on a lower level of The Elm at 21 College Ave.

The Rev. Mark D. Wilson said the church’s 100 members began worship there Aug. 2, both in-person and via Zoom. The church spent more than $100,000 renovating the space.

“The church building on Eustis Parkway was too much building for us, and it wasn’t close to the mission field, which is where we wanted to be,” Wilson said. “Our emphasis shifted from the church being its own mission. Our focus … is to serve our community.”

The Elm opened last September in the former American Legion Hall at 21 College Ave.

Since its opening, the venue has hosted concerts, festivals, parties and more.

“I think the Congregational church is a great fit for The Elm and will make an excellent tenant. I’m very happy to have them as a part of the property, for sure,” Bill Mitchell, owner if The Elm, said Friday.

Wilson said the church is leasing space in the lower level of The Elm. The initial lease is for five years with options to renew for up to 20 years. The church already has worship space, offices and an “essentials closet” to provide the community with toiletries or other needs.

“We’re here for the foreseeable future,” Wilson said.

The Children’s Discovery Museum bought the church building on Eustis Parkway in May after closing its site in Augusta.

Waterville’s First Congregational Church United Church of Christ has moved to a new space on a lower level of The Elm at 21 College Ave. Photo courtesy of Rev. Mark Wilson

The 14,000-square foot building was built in 1966. Prior to that, the church resided in a building Temple Street for 160 years behind where the Colby College residential complex now inhabits. The original building has since been demolished.

Wilson is happy with the move, especially amid the challenges of the coronavirus pandemic.

“The most powerful part, for me anyways, was that we haven’t been worshiping in-person since March due to COVID restrictions,” he said. “Our folks that are here for in-person worship, we follow all the precautions.

“To me, it was really a powerful moment when we said the Lords’ Prayer together in-person, with our masks on.”

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