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06. What's a Meeting House? a Parish House?
Meeting HouseFirst Parish, as the very first gathered church in the community (1676!) and as a community-sanctioned congregation, was also used as the first meeting or gathering-place for town meetings. Although Portland Town Meetings no longer take place here, many other community activities do, like concerts and lectures. We retain the term "Meeting House" out of deference to our long past.
Parish HouseWhy is it called a house? It's not a house! Again, tradition. Before 1890, First Parish did not see a lot of after- or before-church meetings. The Meeting House was the entire church building. A group of Parishioners (members of First Parish) got together in 1890 or so and decided to build a community room at the side of the Stone Church. Until 1956, the Parish House was one story, and many Sunday School classes were held here. In 1956, the second floor was built for Religious Education classrooms. You can also find the church offices on the second floor of the Parish House. The former Children's Chapel is used for Religious Exploration classes and for meeting space.
Because the physical plan of First Parish is so limited, the Parish House main floor serves as Library, Living Room, and Coffee Room, with many meetings taking place there as well. The ground floor was renovated in the 1980s-1990s, and the Multipurpose Room is used for many meetings and for Religious Exploration classes.