April 06, 2020

From unusual roots, a church grows> Messiah Baptist awaits new site

Tucked behind the fast-food restaurants that line Bangor’s Union Street sits a new church.

Inside, 8,000 pounds of carpet wait to be installed. Workers stand on ladders pulling electrical wires across suspended ceiling frames. Painters put finishing touches on sanctuary walls.

While it may look like a building constructed in the usual way — with hammer and nails, wallboard, sweat and muscle power — it is not. Messiah Baptist Church was built with glue, staples, perseverance and faith, according to its pastor, the Rev. Herman “Buddy” Frankland.

The congregation expects to hold services next month in its new location after being without a permanent home since selling its French Street building to Congregation Beth El more than two years ago. To say the church has bounced from pillar to post since then would be an understatement, according to many of its members.

Messiah Baptist Church’s attempt to purchase the Cottage Restaurant on Wilson Street in Brewer was thwarted when a zoning change for the property was rejected by city voters in March 1996. Since then, the congregation has held services at Jeff’s Catering in Brewer, in a Bangor storefront on Central Street and in the former Broadway Furniture Store in Bangor.

Finally, in August 1996 the state Department of Environmental Protection approved the church’s plans to build at the Union Street location after Messiah Baptist Church agreed to set aside 3.4 acres of the 12-acre tract for wildlife and green space. The site development plan for the 13,216-square-foot house of worship was approved by the Bangor Planning Board that same week.

Ground for the facility was broken in the fall of 1996, and construction began in earnest last May, according to Frankland. However, the saga of how the church found a new home is not the only unusual feature about the building. It has been constructed with the most up-to-date, energy-efficient materials.

The building was “glued and stapled” together, said Frankland. The interior walls and ceiling came in prefabricated sections with the exterior roof and sides, either finished or nearly finished.

Sandwiched between the two pieces is super insulation. The ceiling has an R factor of 38, while the walls’ R factor is 30.

“You could light a candle in the place and heat it,” joked Frankland during a tour of the facility last Sunday. “We also have Moscone Bantam boilers, a Maine-made furnace system from Millinocket, that will cut our heating consumption rate by 50 percent or more.”

Messiah Baptist Church was designed to accommodate growth. While the congregation currently has about 150 adult members, according to the pastor, the new building easily will accommodate 700.

Across the front of the building runs an unusually large 70-by-30-foot foyer. Behind it is the large, arched sanctuary, which includes a balcony. At the front of the church is the raised platform that will hold the choir section and pulpit. Behind and above the altar is the large baptismal tank, which will allow for baptism by immersion.

The focal point of the sanctuary will be the massive 70-by-70-foot painting Rockland artist William J. Wallace will paint on the wall above the baptismal. The sanctuary also will be equipped with the latest sound and lighting equipment, Frankland said.

“This will be largest painting I’ve ever done,” said Wallace earlier this week as he prepared to begin painting the mural. “I want this to be a dramatic focus for the sanctuary, a kind of ethereal setting.”

Wallace said he wanted to create the visual effect of “looking through a cataract into a body of water, then up to a mountain, through the trees and into the sky. There will be a subtle impression of Christ in clouds.”

The painter estimated it would take him about 14 days to complete the mural with acrylic paints and give it a clear, protective covering. Wallace, a commercial artist, owns and operates Pathways Gallery in Rockland and conducts a ministry through art there.

Last Sunday, surrounded by abandoned display sections in the empty furniture store, Frankland preached to his congregation. He talked about the faith that had gotten them through the past two trying years.

“That church [building] is easy to see now. But how many of you could see it two years ago?” he asks. “I was able to see that church because faith is the substance of things hoped for … and the evidence of things not seen … God puts faith on trial, beloved.”

Robin Fulcher of Bangor agreed that her faith was tested, but added it was her faith that got her through the past few difficult years. She joined the church five years ago when it was still in its French Street location.

“It has been a matter of having faith in being able to see that church before it materialized,” she said following Sunday’s service. “I have been through it all, the whole transition and trying to find a place to land. Pastor Frankland feeds my soul. His sermons give me what I need to live my life every day.”

Frankland credited many church members for donating hundreds of hours to get the new facility ready for next month’s anticipated opening service. He also said Bangor city officials had been helpful and cooperative in the church’s quest to find a permanent home. But he credited the “word of God” for personally keeping him going.

“It has been proven to me over the years that His word is faithful,” the pastor said in the unfinished foyer of his congregation’s new home. “Everything I’ve believed in, He’s always honored. This church, this building, is a thing that God brought to pass.”

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