St. Matthew’s Church in Hallowell has announced that it will close its doors for good after it is able to hold one more in-person service. The congregation of about 35 is no longer able to maintain the 160-year-old church. Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal

HALLOWELL — After one final future service, Saints Matthew and Barnabas Episcopal Church is expected to close its door for good.

That message came down from Senior Warden Patricia Buck-Welton in a release posted on the church’s website Oct. 24. Welton-Buck wrote that the Union Street church “no longer (has) the finances based on present pledges and resources to remain open long term.”

The St. Matthew’s Church parish was organized in 1859, and the church was built on land purchased for $180 in 1860. Later that year, the church was consecrated.

A house next door was purchased in the 1980s and a new parish hall was built in 1984. In 2017, St. Matthew’s Church merged with St. Barnabas Church of Augusta and was first recognized as The Episcopal Church of Saints Matthew and Barnabas.

Priest Jack Fles said the church “ran out of people and got short on money,” and then the pandemic set in and “put the final bullet” in the church.

“We were planning to go ahead and see what could happen and hope remained bright,” he said. “People coming in to keep things going and then looking ahead towards the income, it just looked like it was time to close.”

Fles said the church has about 35 parishioners, which is not able to sustain the maintenance for the 160-year-old church. He said the closing was “very disheartening” for himself and the church’s parishioners, but potentially devastating for the attendees to Alcoholics Anonymous meetings at the church.

“It’s vital (for Alcoholics Anonymous members),” Fles said, adding that there were two meetings a day before the pandemic. “I’m in contact with people who need that service and it’s very difficult.”

Cindi Cunningham, 70, travels from Union to attend church on Sundays. She said she was married at St. Matthew’s and was sad to see the “beautiful little church” close.

“It means the end of an era as I know it,” Cunningham said. “It’s a feeling of loss. We’ve lost our family members (that also attended the church) and it was a connection (to them).”

She said the parishioners will eventually find another church, but said the loss of their church is “rough right now.”

Buck-Welton’s Oct. 24 message said that a final service will take place when the church is able to hold in-person service.

Some items in the church’s archives will be stored at The Episcopal Church in Maine, the local diocese, and artifacts and other objects may be given back to donors or given to other parishes.

 

EDITOR’S NOTE: This article has been edited to correct some errors. Patricia Buck-Welton is the senior warden of the Episcopal Church of St. Matthew and Barnabas. Additionally, the vestry is considering its options for the future of the St. Matthew’s Church property. They were reporting errors.

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