Phil Nicewonger, pastor of youth and Christian education at the First Baptist Church of Waldoboro, plans to start a new Baptist church, the Twin Villages Church, in downtown Damariscotta.
The idea to establish a church in downtown Damariscotta dates to 2012, when the First Baptist Church was having conversations about a new community outreach program in Rockland called The Gathering.
In June 2016, Jason Pauley, one of the people involved with starting The Gathering, reached out to Nicewonger, of Warren, to see if he wanted to join a prayer walk in Damariscotta. Nicewonger said that was the night the idea of starting a church solidified.
“At that point, being here with people having those encouraging conversations, God confirmed that this was an opportunity to pursue,” Nicewonger said.
A native of Albany, N.Y., Nicewonger attended Taylor University in Indiana, where he earned a degree in biology and environmental science.
After moving back to Albany, Nicewonger began volunteering with the youth ministry of the church he attended while growing up. He realized that he enjoyed his work with the church more than his full-time job in his area of study.
The leaders in the church encouraged him to follow God’s calling, and over the next decade, Nicewonger moved into a full-time ministry role within the church, first as the youth pastor and later as the lead pastor.
When the church changed the position from full-time to part-time, Nicewonger and his wife, Faith, began their search for a church in need of a full-time pastor. The Nicewongers also wanted to find the right community in which to raise their three children: Dorie, Matthew, and Elijah.
Nicewonger said he was drawn to the “life and energy” at the First Baptist Church of Waldoboro, as well as the environment the church and the community would provide in which to raise their children.
“There is a spirit in Waldoboro, where the people are just very active in the church and the community, which was really what our family was looking for,” Nicewonger said.
When Nicewonger brought the idea of starting a church in the Twin Villages to leadership at First Baptist Church, church leaders were “incredibly supportive,” Nicewonger said.
“They told me that if this was what God was calling me to do, then I needed to move forward with confidence, and they would support and encourage me,” Nicewonger said.
Members of First Baptist Church have started a prayer group to support the new church as it develops. A group of church members has committed to join Nicewonger, who will be the lead pastor, at the new church for at least a year to get it started.
Twin Villages Church will have Sunday services with a mix of contemporary music and traditional hymns. Smaller groups of church members will meet during the week to study the Bible and encourage one another, Nicewonger said.
Damariscotta Bank & Trust is working with the church to finance a location, Nicewonger said. He hopes to find a location in downtown Damariscotta, which he called the “beating heart” of the Twin Villages.
The church hopes to have a strong spirit of service. Nicewonger said he has met with Stephanie Gallagher, the executive director of the Damariscotta Region Chamber of Commerce, to offer the church’s help wherever volunteers are needed.
“This is where the community is, this is where life happens, and for us to do what we want to do, we need to be here too,” Nicewonger said.
Originally, Nicewonger had hoped to start meeting as the Twin Villages Church this September, but with momentum from the church’s support, the plan is to begin holding services in June if a location is established.
“We’re very excited to just get started and be a blessing in the community,” Nicewonger said.
For more information, go to twinvillageschurch.org or find Twin Villages Church on Facebook.