January 7, 2013

Episcopal Diocese offers Richmond St. Matthias church property for free

Selectmen to consider proposed gift at Wednesday meeting

By Keith Edwards kedwards@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

RICHMOND -- St. Matthias Episcopal Church property, including two buildings and a half-acre lot, has been offered to the town for free.

click image to enlarge

The St. Matthias Episcopal Church property and its two buildings, on a flat, half-acre lot, has been offered to the town of Richmond for free. Snow covers the lot on Monday.

Staff photo by Andy Molloy

The church's dwindling congregation voted last May to cease holding services at the church at 15 Spruce St., according to a spokeswoman for the Episcopal Diocese of Maine.

Church officials said they offered the church and another building on the same lot to the town, hoping the property could continue to serve the community. One possibility might be as a food pantry, for which it has been used previously, said Heidi Shott, a diocese spokeswoman.

Shott said the congregation wanted "to give it to the town so the food ministry and pantry could be kept in the community."

"They wanted to see it perpetuated," Shott said. "We're delighted the town is interested in talking about taking over that property and continuing that service to the community. That's part of what the congregation wants to do, continue the tradition of serving the people of Richmond, to take care of people."

Town officials have toured the property and are scheduled to meet at 6 p.m. Wednesday in the Town Office conference room to discuss whether to accept the donation and how the town might use the property.

Accepting the property would require a town meeting vote, according to Town Manager Marian Anderson.

"The conversation so far has been about (using the church property for) the food pantry," which doesn't have a permanent home, Anderson said.

She said no discussion has taken place about the property's potential as a library. The town's library is in rented space on Main Street.

The church property is in a quiet, in-town area near the Richmond Area Health Center, a short distance through the woods from Marcia Buker Elementary School.

Shott said by 2011 the congregation was down to 11 members. The church's congregation first met in Richmond in 1863, and it was made a mission of the Episcopal Diocese of Maine in 1951.

"These congregations, a lot of them, started in a time before cars; so to be able to go to church, you needed a church in each local community," Shott said. "That church in Richmond has probably five other Episcopal churches within 20 miles of it, which has made the smaller congregation that much smaller."

Shott noted it was the decision of the congregation, not the diocese, to close the church. She said if the town isn't interested, the diocese probably will look into selling the property.

The property -- including the 1,340-square-foot, single-story church and a 864-square-foot meeting hall added in 2003 -- is assessed by the town at $207,900. The church is heated by two monitor heaters and the other building by one, according to town records.

Selectmen on Wednesday are also scheduled to:

* hear an update from Steve Musica on efforts to have a new Umberhine Public Library built in town;

* discuss re-applying for the state's Certified Business Friendly Community Program, a designation that Richmond applied for last year but was rejected;

* consider accepting the resignation of Shawn Pierce from the Richmond Fire Department;

* review the form used to request the use of town property.

Keith Edwards -- 621-5647
kedwards@centralmaine.com

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