St. Margaret’s Episcopal Church in Belfast was constructed in 1915-16 in the Arts and Crafts style. While the congregation began meeting for Holy Communion as early as 1906, the first service in this building was Sept. 19, 1915.
On Sept. 19, 1915, a small group of Episcopalians began worshiping in a new building with a borrowed organ, benches from the nearby Opera House, and a priest from neighboring Camden.
Even with plenty of construction ahead, St. Margaret’s on the corner of Elm and Court streets was imagined at the time as “an ancient building in an ancient site.”
And St. Margaret’s has been that way for the 100 years since that 1915 service – always blending the ancient, the medieval, the contemporary, the radical, the traditional.
This year, St. Margaret’s Episcopal Church is celebrating its diversity, its centennial and this summer’s arrival of its new rector (pastor), the Rev. Christopher J. Szarke.
A special service is planned for 4 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 19, to commemorate the start of formal worship in the church. The public is invited, and a reception will follow.
While Belfast, Maine, had incorporated as a town in 1773, no Episcopal church existed in the community throughout the 18th and 19th centuries. By the first decade of the 1900s, a Belfast woman provided the spark and the persistence to change that.
Maud Gammans (1866-1928) had been confirmed in an Episcopal church in Boston in 1902. Four years later, the Episcopal bishop of Maine visited Gammans in Belfast, and on June 17, 1906, Bishop Robert Codman celebrated Holy Communion at Gammans’ home on Church Street in Belfast. He also promised a monthly Communion service, at least in summertime. By 1907, Gammans and others in her orbit were participating in warm-weather Communion services in Belfast.
In late 1909, a lot at the corner of Court and Elm had been acquired (for $300). Gammans and others raised money and hired the architect Russell Williams Porter of Boston. The ground was broken on May 13, 1915. Construction continued after the Sept. 19 evensong, and St. Margaret’s Chapel opened July 22, 1916. In August 1916, the bishop of Maine knocked three times on the chapel door in a ceremonial consecration. St. Margaret’s did not become a parish until 1930. But the “ancient building in an ancient site” was consecrated and its doors were open.