Early settlers who came from Massachusetts were familiar with the Congregational church. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts required every incorporated town to have the services of a Congregational preacher. In the 1790s, missionary preachers came from nearby towns and held services in residents’ homes or barns. The residents of what we know as North Norway organized a Congregational Church in 1802, relying on the services of visiting preachers.
In 1808, Maj. Jonathan Cummings undertook the building of a meeting house, and in 1809 the members petitioned the General Court to incorporate a Congregational Society in Norway.
The first settled minister to be called was Noah Cressey who came to Norway in 1807 and was ordained in the church in 1809. He was paid $266.67 cents a year. He also became the first Superintendent of Schools.
Several other settled pastors served the church for short periods. At times, the Norway Center church shared a minister with the South Paris church, and later with the Congregational Church in the village. The original building was replaced by the present structure in 1840.
In 1842, the congregation unanimously approved a resolution that “…slavery is legalized oppression at variance with the benevolence of the gospel…”
In December 1852, twenty-five residents of the village, who found the trip to Norway Center over poor roads to be burdensome, held a meeting and voted to form the “Norway Village Congregational Church.” An ecclesiastical council was held in January 1853 to examine the credentials and the Christian character of the organizers. Delegates from area churches voted to establish the Norway Village Church. The building of a former Methodist church was purchased near where the entrance to the Ripley Building is now located. In 1863 a tower and a bell were added to the building. In December 1854, Rev. Asa T. Loring was called to be the first Pastor.
In 1869 it was voted to change the name of the church to “Norway Second Congregational Parish.” This structure was destroyed by fire on December 19, 1875. The fire started while Rev. Charles Mills was preaching his sermon.
A new church building was erected on the same spot, and was dedicated in November 1876. It was damaged by fire in 1892. It was totally destroyed by the Great Norway Fire of May 9, 1894. Thirty-three of the families of the congregation lost their homes or businesses in that fire. The minister at the time, Rev. Bates Sewall Rideout, was injured when he fell through the roof of the tannery, fighting the fire at that building.
Following the fire of 1894, the congregation decided to purchase, for $800, from Mrs. Almira Wrisley, the lot at the corner of Main and Paris Streets for a new church building. The current church structure was built by C. H. Adams of Bethel. The total cost of the building and furnishings was $11,107. It was dedicated on February 28, 1895, nine months after the Great Norway Fire. Over 700 people attended the dedication service.
Mr. S. I. Millett, who lived opposite the church, donated the weather vane. Mrs. Otis Jones of Boston, whose father was on the building committee, donated a piano. Mrs. Almira Wrisley gave $500 toward a pipe organ, and with other donations the Emmons Howard organ was installed late in 1895 or in 1896. Mr. Adams also built the house next door on Main Street, as his residence. The church acquired that house as a parsonage in 1948.
The congregation voted to become a member of the United Church of Christ in 1963.In the 1980s the congregation undertook to expand the building with the addition of offices, a music room, and a conference room named the Lello Room, in recognition of the 28- year pastorate of Rev. J. Nesbitt Lello from 1945 to 1976, the longest in the church’s history.
Memorial gifts were given for three stained glass windows; the Christ at Gethsemane window in 1966, the Good Shepherd window in 1972, and the Nativity window in 1988. The carillon was given in memory of Winfred Edminster.
In October 2009, the congregation adopted the following resolution:
We the members of the Second Congregational Church, United Church of Christ, Norway, Maine, are an open and affirming community of faith…. With God’s help we respect and embrace differences in gender, age, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identification, mental and physical ability, as well as racial, ethnic, socio-economic status, family structure, and faith experience. We are a respectful and responsible congregation who value diverse opinions.
The Second Congregational Church of Norway has continued its vibrant ministry of worship, youth activities, musical presentations, and service to the community and wider world into the 21st century.