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More in Church
The Norway Center Church
NORWAY — On July 15, at 10 a.m., the Norway Center Church will begin its summer services at the church, which was built in 1840.
The Norway Congregational Society was about 50 years older than this church building. Many of the first pioneers to come to Norway, in the 1780s, were members of The Puritan Congregational Order in other communities in Massachusetts from where they came.
Therefore, the Congregational Church became the "Standing Order" of the township. This meant that when a certain population was reached, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts require that a specified amount of preaching occur each year, which was paid for by all property taxpayers of the township.
Since many of the taxpayers throughout the Commonwealth were members of other churches, they objected to the law and it was abolished before The District of Maine became the State of Maine.
At first, the services were held at different farms, in houses in winter and in the barns during the summer months, by either preachers from nearby towns, itinerant preachers, or missionaries. The first one, known to have preached in Norway, was the Rev. Daniel Gould, who later settled in Bethel and founded the academy that bears his name.
However, the services were more often "Deacon-Meetings" led by one of the deacons. The first Deacon in the Norway Church was Timothy Stone. The deacon often read a sermon which had been prepared by a minister.
The first music in the church was led by one of the best choirs to be found anywhere. Eventually the earliest musical instruments, "two fiddles and a flute," accompanied singing until an organ could be purchased.
During the ministry of Rev. Noah Cressey, the church's first resident minister, Major Jonathan Cummings, the owner of Cummings Grant, built the first church on the same site as the present church. After the building of the church the members petitioned the General Court of Massachusetts for an "Act of Incorporation," which was granted March 1, 1809.
During the ministry of Rev. Charles Soule the old church was torn down and the Society built the present church on the same site. The new church was only two-thirds the size of the original and was situated perpendicular to the road instead of parallel to it.
The pews originally had the old fashioned doors; but, when church was extensively repaired in 1893 the doors were removed. During this renovation the old reed organ, which is now in the church, was purchased. In 1898 the chapel was built by the Christian Endeavor Society. During the winter it was easier to heat than the church and many of the church activities, including neighborhood suppers, were held there.
In the 1950s its kitchen was enlarged; and in the 1980s, the chapel was enlarged to become the present dining room. Also in 1950 the church acquired the piano from the C. A. Stephen's estate and in 1975 the church was given its electric organ.
Many believe that the new church was built because the population shift had begun toward Norway Village and the area could no longer support the larger church. When the Second Congregational Church formed in 1852, a gradual decline in the membership began and continued until 1937.
That year Dr. Wilhelm G. Felmeth was instrumental in converting it to a "summer church." Four generations of the Felmeth Family have served the church since then: Doctor Wilhelm G. Felmeth, 1937-1953; Dr. William H. Felmeth, 1940-1988; Dr. John Felmeth 1947-1976; Rev. Richard Moore (Dr. William Felmeth's son-in-law), 1971-____ and Rev. Sarah Moore-Nokes (daughter of Richard and Martha (Felmeth) Moore, 2010-____.