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HopeGateWay builds a faith community in Maine

 

Joey Butler
January-February 2015

HopeGateWay is a newly formed faith community springing from the roots of the former Chestnut Street United Methodist Church in Portland, Maine.

The Revs. Allen and Sara Ewing-Merrill, co-pastors of HopeGateWay, A United Methodist Community, moved to the area in 2007 with a dream of forming a new ministry. The church sprang from a small group that met in their home.

"We call it a faith community rather than a church because I think ‘church' is a loaded word for people who carry some baggage (about religion)," says Allen Ewing-Merrill.

Now, the church has two worship locations in Portland and runs Hope Acts, a separate outreach program. Hope Acts was created in response to growing ministries with people in recovery from addiction and newly arrived immigrants seeking asylum. Hope Acts hosts a growing recovery program that offers traditional Alcoholics Anonymous meetings as well as classes that use yoga, meditation and drum circles to help those struggling with dependency.

Hope House is a housing program for asylum seekers – primarily those fleeing Burundi, Angola, Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo. Thirteen residents share five two- and three-bedroom apartments. They will stay at least as long as the 150 days it takes to get permits allowing them to work. In addition to providing a place to live, Hope House helps the residents learn English, find jobs, get legal services and acclimate to American culture.

A resident from Burundi says of the church: "Pastor Allen and Sara are like parents. They make me free to feel like home. If I'm at HopeGateWay, I'm home."

The church's story was featured in We Refused to Lead a Dying Church! (Pilgrim Press) by the Rev. Paul Nixon, mission developer and church strategist with Path 1 of Discipleship Ministries.

"I think that churches need to pay attention to who's in the neighborhood, who's walking to the doors and what the needs are — not us-and-them kind of ministry," says Allen Ewing-Merrill.

Joey Butler is multimedia editor for Interpreter.

AT A GLANCE HopeGateWay United Methodist Church | 185 High St., Portland, ME 04101 | allen@hopegateway.com | www.hopegateway.com | Pastors: The Revs. Allen and Sara Ewing-Merrill | Average Attendance: 91 | New England Conference