Cape Neddick Baptist Church and Parsonage in the Early 1900s.
Cape Neddick Baptist Church History
Time and space do not permit us to detail the entire the history of our beloved Church. Its Baptist background may be traced to the preaching as far back as 1780 by Elder Nathaniel Lord in the house of Jeremiah Weare on Pine Hill Road. His Calvinistic doctrine antagonized many and was not preached again until 1803 when Elder William Batchelder preached at what is now Elm Farm. He reported that nearly 50 souls were converted in a short time. In 1804, a baptism by immersion was conducted by Elder Elias Smith.
On Dec. 20, 1822, “The Proprietors” organized to build a Meeting House for the use of the first Methodist Society of York which had been organized. When not in use by the Methodists, it required that it might be opened for the use of other denominations and their ministers. A committee of three proprietors were elected yearly to have charge of the admittance of qualified ministers of such denominations. This procedure continued until Feb. 7, 1829, when they voted that the First Baptist Society, which had been organized Feb. 6, 1829, should have “pre-eminence” since they had assumed responsibility for the ministry and its support. From their organization in 1822 until March, 1887, the proprietors met as the owners of the Cape Neddick Meeting House. They, with the Society and Church, were responsible for the physical and spiritual operation of the Meeting House, built in 1823.
On Aug. 13, 1829, a council met to consider organizing a Regular Baptist Church. Representatives from Wells, South Berwick, Kennebunkport, and Portsmouth resolved to recognize them. Oliver Barron was the first Pastor and Cotton Chase the first Deacon. Mr. Chase and Samuel Weare were two of the original Propietors. Seven women and five men signed a statement of beliefs and created a church covenant. Before the year 1829 had passed, many others of the original builders had come into the church including Samuel Adams. On Jan. 1, 1830, Samuel Adams was chosen Church Clerk, serving until 1863.
In May, 1830, the church joined the York Association. It is possible that many others were interested without joining the church, and continued to be of great help in the early years of our history. By 1840, there were 83 members on the Church Roll. In October, 1840, 25 were dismissed to form a church at Wells. By 1843 there were 66 members. In the early days discipline was strict, members were called to account for unchristian actions, some were even dismissed because of misconduct or non-attendance, but the church was ministering and growing.
In the first 25 years, eight pastors ministered faithfully. In the second 25, the records tell of the passing home to glory one after another of the stalwarts of that early church. There were frequent changes in pastoral leadership and, at times, intervals without a resident Pastor. In 1878, during the pastorate of the Rev. Mr. Stetson, who gave the bell to the church, the congregation was reorganized with 33 members. The vestibule and belfry were added during the pastorate of the Rev. Stetson. The Rev. Gilbert Robbins was the first pastor in the third 25-year period (1879-1886). During his tenure, the old singing gallery was removed, new pews were installed, and a rededication service was held. In 1889, the Church Letter read, “In 60 years, 190 members were united: 155 by baptism. Most of these have passed to their reward and many of the living are now over three score and ten. Membership 25.”
In 1890, a Bible School was organized at York Beach and a chapel was planned on land donated by Mr. H.Z. Ellis and subscription and cash at the time amounted to $1,200. Although the Baptist work continued, the chapel was never built.
The last entry in the Proprietors' book was for Nov. 13, 1893. On Sept. 29, 1894, the Cape Neddick Baptist Society was organized. Soon after, the chapel or vestry was built. In 1894, the Church and Society voted to call Bro. William Fletcher and ordained him soon thereafter. The old parsonage, of which we have no knowledge concerning its original construction, was purchased by Rev. Mr. Fletcher, the then retiring pastor, and was moved across the street where it was his retirement home. In 1902, the present parsonage was built at a cost of $2,009, on the site of the original parsonage.
The 100th anniversary was celebrated on Nov. 15, 1954, and was a day of rejoicing under Pastor Gilbert Ward. The Rev. J. Wesley Stuart brought the morning message and the Rev. James Dagino, the evening sermon. In the previous ten years, many improvements had been made to the property. A new oil-fired heating system was installed, an electric organ purchased, and the sanctuary repainted with a new ceiling. The parsonage was painted and remodeled. From November 1954 to November 1958, the Church was led forward by the Rev. Norman MacFarlane. The Rev. Richard Parker served from March 4, 1959 to Sept. 6, 1961. It was during his pastorate that the Cape Neddick Baptist Church was incorporated. This incorporation took place February 24, 1960, and all property belonging to the Society was conveyed to the Church. Pastor Donald B. Weymouth began serving on Jan. 21, 1962. It was Pastor Weymouth who conducted the dedication service for the new building on Nov. 12, 1961.
On Feb. 4, 1968, a formal burning of the mortgage was celebrated after only six years, instead of the anticipated ten. During the leadership of Pastor Weymouth, land was purchased for increased parking and recreational uses. The Rev. Alvin Cooper became the pastor on July 8, 1979. He baptized 17 people during his tenure. The Rev. James Waugh arrived in March of 1984 and served until 1992. Sixteen baptisms took place, a new piano was purchased and an alarm system was installed. Several thousands of dollars were donated to help a clinic in Haiti. The Rev. Henry Bock served as interim until the Rev. Dr. Judson Stone arrived in October, 1993. Pastor Stone baptized 16 people
during his years at Cape Neddick. Many improvements were made to the church, vestry and parsonage. New hymnals and Bibles were purchased. The school house was razed in 2000, and a part-time youth worker served in 2003-2004. The Church has, over the ensuing years, been ranked in the top twenty-five mission giving churches in the American Baptist Churches of Maine.
A celebration was held in August of 2004 to commemorate the 175th anniversary of the Church. The Rev. Dr. Stone was called to ministry in Texas during the summer of 2005. The Rev. Dr. Linwood Welch served as interim pastor until September 2006. Our fellowship continued to grow, with one baptism and two people being added to our rolls.
In March of 2006, Matt Wigton, a Gordon-Conwell seminary student, was hired to help develop our youth programs. In September of 2006, the Rev. Carsten Lotz was called as pastor of the Cape Neddick Baptist Church. In December of 2007, he moved to England to complete his doctoral degree. In September of 2008, the Rev's Richard and Carol Visser served as interim pastors. In September of 2009, the Rev. Donald Nelson was called as pastor and the church continued to grow. He retired on Dec. 4, 2016. On Feb. 26, 2017, the Rev. David Strosahl was called as interim pastor and, on Oct. 1, 2018, the Rev. Donna Hailson was called as pastor.
The Church has ministered to the community at every opportunity and in many different ways. This Meeting House has been a place of worship for many summer people throughout the years. It has been a place where many have found comfort in times of trial. The gospel of Jesus Christ has been preached in its fullness. The activities undertaken were for the glory of God and to honor Him. Our Heavenly Father has blessed this body of believers and church property greatly over the past years.