UNITY — Soot can still be seen above the front doors of the Unity Union Church, which survived an arson fire on Dec. 26, 2020. It has been a long road repairing the interior of the Depot Street church, which was heavily damaged by smoke and water; the price tag to date exceeds $700,000.

Church leaders had anticipated reopening in May 2022 and again this month, but supply chain and subsequent contractor issues have delayed progress. At this time there is no tentative date for services to restart in the historic church, which was built in 1841.

As with many repairs and renovations of old buildings, as they proceeded, workers uncovered additional problems that had to be addressed — lack of insulation, for one. A new well has also been added.

Most of the heavy construction now has been completed, along with some structural changes. The altar, which previously was located at the rear of the church, has been moved to the side.

The original stained glass windows, which could be seen from the front and Main Street side of the building, survived the fire and will be lighted. The stained glass windows on the parsonage side of the building, which had been covered over with the addition of a kitchen and meeting space, are now visible from inside that space.

In the church basement, where the fire was believed to have started, classrooms have been updated, along with the pastor’s office and kitchen. The bathrooms are now ADA compliant. There are two stairwells into the basement, one of which will have a chair lift.

The western wall of the Unity Union Church will now be the location of the pulpit, which is being moved from the north wall as part of ongoing renovations to the church. Photo by William Carroll

Once the floor has been completed new pews will be installed. The tin ceiling was brittle and could not be salvaged. The original chandelier that once hung from that tin ceiling will be rewired and installed along with a new decorative medallion ceiling fixture.

When the stage was removed, an old heavy wooden altar with its legs removed was found underneath it. Church leaders are looking to restore it.

Unity Union Church Trustee Chair Chris Aspinall and son Evan Aspinall move blocks Sept. 30 to an area in front of the church for a sign to be installed by Evan for his Eagle Scout project. Photo by William Carroll

The church will need items to complete its readiness for services, community meals and classes, including hangers, curtains, paper products and kitchen supplies such as pots and pans. Anyone who would like to make a donation can mail it to: Unity Union Church, P.O. Box 146, Unity, ME 04988.

Penny Picard Sampson heads Unity’s Select Board and is The Republican Journal’s Unity columnist.