Trinity Church redevelopment to start next week

Jan. 24—LEWISTON — The Trinity Church congregation is moving forward with plans to redevelop its place of worship into a multi-use community center after years of planning.

Next week, volunteers will begin removing pews and carpet from the church, aiming to make the main room more flexible and accessible for local groups. The pews will be replaced with stackable wooden chairs which can easily be cleared from the room for community events or activities.

It's the first step of the church's multi-phase process to reinvent itself as Trinity Commons. As the church's congregation grows smaller — it now numbers just 25 people — members have focused their efforts on redeveloping the building into a multipurpose space. While the church will continue to hold worship services for its members, they envision opening the space up to music events, film screenings, conferences, Tai chi, political organizing activities and more.

"We don't have the luxury of just keeping that building to ourselves anymore," said Klara Tammany, the senior warden of Trinity Church. "We're sort of giving away the building, so that whether we live as a congregation or not, the building will be sustainable."

Members say they are making these changes because they don't want to see Trinity become yet another empty church in the community. Instead, they believe it can play a role in helping to revitalize the downtown.

"It's always been a center and an anchor in that neighborhood with a commitment to do what is good for the people who live there," Tammany said. "Our effort now is to assure that will continue, whether or not we are able to continue as a congregation."

The church also plans to paint a labyrinth pattern on the refurbished floor which congregation member Jane Costlow described as a "physical representation of a life of faith."

Walking the labyrinth will provide a contemplative environment for walking meditation, she said. Ideally, she would love to see the space opened perhaps once each month to enable people to enjoy the quiet, walking meditation.

"Of course it's difficult for many of us to think of churches changing on the inside," said Costlow. "(But) we just want to continue to be a vibrant, worshipping community and also see the church stay alive in the community."

When the Trinity Jubilee Center moves out in a year or two, members also plan to renovate the downstairs space which the organization currently occupies.

While the Trinity Jubilee Center was founded by congregation members, it is an independent entity. After the Trinity Jubilee Center builds and moves into its new location at 60 Park St., members plan to rent out the space to another community organization.

Tammany said she has been in discussion with a few potential groups with similar social justice goals, but nothing has been finalized yet.

In several years, the church also hopes to build an addition with more bathrooms.

The group expects to soon hire a roving listener to learn more about the talents and the strengths of local community members. This person would do "nothing but listen to the neighborhood and report back what would be helpful and needed, and discover gifts that are in the neighborhood," said Tammany.

She thanked Trinity Church Wall Street, the Episcopal Church Genesis II program and the Labyrinth Company for advice, training and financial support.

This month, church members also welcomed the Rev. Paul St. Germain from Portland. The congregation had been without a priest since June last year.

Trinity Church is looking for volunteers to help remove the pews and carpet next week. Those interested in helping can contact Tammany at 207-577-0607.