HopeGateWay is a community of faith in the Wesleyan 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 in Portland. 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 July 2007, Revs. Allen & Sara Ewing-Merrill, both ordained in the United Methodist tradition, 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.
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.
For five years, HopeGateWay's ministry inhabited two sites — the downtown 185 High Street site and the 509 Forest Avenue site closer to Woodfords Corner. In 2018, the ministry came together under one roof at 509 Forest Avenue, where worship is held each Sunday at 9 am and 11 am, and where people gather throughout the week.
A few milestones:
- Through a dynamic partnership with Wayside Food Programs, over 50,000 Community Meals were served and enjoyed at 185 High Street between 2010 and 2018.
- In 2011, HopeGateWay gave birth to a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, Hope Acts, which today continues to operate Hope House, a residential program for asylum seekers.
- HopeGateWay seeks to be a place of hospitality, hope, and healing for people in the addiction recovery community. Each week, several hundred people, mostly young adults, walk through our doors for Twelve Step meetings and other recovery-focused gatherings.
- In 2014, leaders from the HopeGateWay community launched a year-long learning community called Growing With Hope, through which teams from other churches come together for learning and inspiration and leadership development.
- In 2017, HopeGateWay leaders were instrumental in the founding of Greater Portland Family Promise, an affiliate of the nationwide Family Promise program. Building on a strong network of faith communities that share their facilities and organize volunteers, Greater Portland Family Promise offers temporary housing and case management for families experiencing homelessness, with the goal of long-term sustainable housing.
Our story — now a bit dated! — is 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.
From September 2019 through May 2021, the HopeGateWay community entered into a deeply prayerful discernment process, to make decisions about their relationship with The United Methodist Church. That process, which centered the voices and lived experiences of LGBTQ persons within the congregation, concluded with a decision on March 28, 2021, to disaffiliate from The United Methodist Church. (Learn more about the discernment journey on this page.) The New England Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church ratified that decision on June 11, 2021. The disaffiliation was complete, effective in September 2021, and we are now an independent, non-denominational congregation with many meaningful affiliations and partnerships. We are continuing to write our story, trusting in God's guidance and wisdom and listening intently for the voice of the Spirit beckoning us forward in faith.
If you're interested in learning more about HopeGateWay, if you'd like to support our ministry, or if you'd like to join us for any of our small groups or for worship, please contact us. We're grateful for your interest, and we'd love to get to know you!