Searsport's First Congregational Church is marking the 200th anniversary of its organization Oct. 4, 1815, by holding a year of events.

The first week in October marked one of those events: Making the sanctuary wheelchair accessible.

Curtis Hall, the church's attached vestry built in 1994, already provided wheelchair access, but the 1834 church sanctuary did not. This year's annual spring event "Nineties Day," which celebrated more than a dozen church members who have reached their 90th year, brought this fact to the attention of a church member who took the issue to the church's Board of Trustees.

Two board members investigated possible ways to correct the situation, Northeast Equipment and Supply Co. was brought in, and the problem was solved.

Workers removed armrests — originally attached with "horse hoof glue" — from four 1902 oak pews. They shortened the seats by three feet and reattached the armrests. To accommodate wheelchairs of all types, they created a 60-inch-wide space to allow for a diagonal entrance and exit.

Two reconstructed pews now are in the center of each outside aisle, providing an unobstructed view of the front of the sanctuary.

Statistics show that with the ongoing retirements of members of the Baby Boomer generation, churches can expect to see one in four of their members become handicapped at some point in their lives, making accessibility a top priority.

The Searsport Congregational Church welcomes visitors to 10 a.m. Sunday services to see the results of the accommodation efforts.