HopeGateWay is a newly formed community of faith in the United Methodist tradition, growing from the roots of the former Chestnut Street United Methodist Church.
Today we are old and young, lifelong Mainers and new immigrants, gay and straight, and differently abled. We are "cradle Christians" and newly exploring faith - full of questions, sometimes skeptical, striving to be authentic. We are rethinking what it means to follow Christ - or considering this question for the first time. Together, in all our great diversity, filled with hope, we are striving to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with God.
The roots of our church date back to 1795, with the founding of the Methodist Society. The historic Chestnut Street church facility, built in 1856 and added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1977, was sold in 2006. Today that facility is home to Grace Restaurant.
In late 2007, pastors Allen & Sara Ewing-Merrill moved to Portland and began planting new seeds. Having served separate churches in both Maine and Massachusetts, Allen & Sara had for several years felt God calling them to co-pastoring, to the adventure of forming a new faith community, and specifically to Portland. In November of 2007, they began meeting in their home with a small group of people interested in exploring new ways of being church, while providing pastoral leadership for the small Chestnut United Methodist Church congregation.
Over their dining room table, as this small group shared meals, and in their living room in times of prayer, reflection, and conversation, the vision for a new kind of church began to emerge. The group adopted the name New Light community, and those seeds, watered and nurtured, began to bear fruit. Beginning in March 2009, the people of Chestnut United Methodist Church and the New Light community began an exciting new collaborative adventure in a brand new space for ministry located at 185 High Street, next to the historic Eastland Park Hotel. By the end of 2010, the two streams of this ministry had come together, adopting the name HopeGateWay.
Allen & Sara lead HopeGateWay's two Sunday morning worship gatherings and provide pastoral leadership as the community grows. In addition to worship, HopeGateWay hosts numerous small groups meeting weekly, and new opportunities for work in the community are emerging all the time.
In 2012, in response to growing ministries with people in recovery from addiction and newly arriving immigrants – primarily asylum seekers from Burundi, Rwanda, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Angola – some entrepreneurial leaders of HopeGateWay formed Hope Acts, a nonprofit with its own 501(c)(3) status, as a way of extending ministry and widening the circle of financial support. Allen serves as Hope Acts' founding executive director.
In September 2013, to accommodate its growing community, HopeGateWay expanded into a second site, at 509 Forest Avenue in Portland, a transition enabled by a generous Hebrews 11 grant from the New England Conference of The United Methodist Church. Each Sunday, 9 am and 11 am worship is held at 509 Forest Avenue.
To read more about the evolution of HopeGateWay and Chestnut Street UMC, check out this story from The United Methodist Reporter, a news magazine with nation-wide circulation.
Our story is also featured in a book called We Refused to Lead a Dying Church, by church developer/ author Paul Nixon (Pilgrim Press, 2012) – a sequel to Nixon's 2007 best-seller, I Refuse to Lead a Dying Church.
If you're interested in learning more about HopeGateWay, or if you'd like to join us for any of our small groups or for worship, please contact us. We'd love to get to know you!