Friday, July 24, 2020

The Refuge Church finds a niche among Windham worshippers

The founders of The Refuge Church gather for a
group photo last week in Windham. Clockwise from left
are Tanay Herald, Rev. Adam Herald, Graham
Herald and Anna Herald.
By Ed Pierce

It takes more than faith to launch a successful new church and for the Herald Family, their determination, desire to help others and a bit of divine inspiration has led to the creation of The Refuge Church in Windham.

The church was originally conceived by the Rev. Adam Herald and his wife, Tanay, who first met while attending a class in bible college in Massachusetts. After serving as a youth pastor in Illinois for a number of years, the Heralds moved to Windham in June 2016 and began realizing their dream of founding a church in town.

“While I was a youth pastor at Orchardville Church in Centralia, Illinois, our pastor got cancer and passed away,” Rev. Herald said. “When he did, we felt God stirring our hearts saying that it was time to head back to New England to plant a life-giving church.” 

He said this was something that the couple had been praying about throughout their ministry because it was undeniable that there were more churches in the Midwest where Adam is originally from than in New England, where Tanay grew up.
“We decided to partner with the Association of Related Churches of Birmingham, Alabama,” Rev. Herald said. “ARC is one of the leading church-planting organizations in America planting over 900 churches since 2000.”

The Refuge became the very first ARC church in the state of Maine and the couple say that they chose Windham as the location of their new church because they loved the rural feel of Maine as it reminded them of the parts of the Midwest that they loved.

“As we searched for a house, we prayed that God would give us a town that he felt needed a life-giving church,” Rev. Herald said. “While searching for a house, we met a realtor named Carol Kline that told us about a house she owned in Windham that she would be willing to rent to us. That was the only sign we needed, and the rest is history.”

The Refuge church was launched on March 5, 2017 and a little more than three years later, about 150 people typically attend its 10 a.m. Sunday non-denominational services conducted at the Windham High School Auditorium.

According to Rev. Herald, The Refuge strives to create five cultural values among its congregants. Those include being dreamers and risk takers not settling for their dreams to remain dreams; they will be in the town, for the town, fiercely loving people they haven't even met yet; they will be known for what they are for and not what they are against; they will laugh as much as they breathe, as hard they we can stand, and a little louder than normal; and they will be excellent in all things, because excellence honors God, and inspires people. 

Like every other church across America during the COVID-19 pandemic, the virus has presented some formidable challenges for The Refuge this year.

“It's been challenging to gauge metrics of growth in this season. Where normally we count attendance, we are now looking at views and engagement online,” Rev. Herald said. “Now we are able to be involved in small groups or what we call "micro-gatherings" where we meet in houses to watch the service together. I believe God works through relationships because ultimately that is what he desires for us, a relationship with him. Relationships can be challenging in a season of social distance."

Despite the obstacles that COVID-19 has posed for the young church and its congregants, Rev. Herald says that The Refuge has risen to the occasion.

“Our church has responded tremendously to the financial needs in this COVID season,” he said. “We were able to donate $6,000 to the Lunch4Kids Windham Raymond Nutrition Program, as well as raise a fund of $5,700 to be able to give to people that are financially struggling in this time. We've sent money to Pakistan, the Dominican Republic and Nepal, as well as given to local families that were in need.”

The success that the Heralds have found with The Refuge Church has prompted ARC to plant a second church in Maine to be called The Pines Church in Bangor which is scheduled to open in March 2021 and led by Rev. Matt Gioia.

The entire Herald Family is involved with The Refuge Church including the couple’s daughter, Anna, 14, who will be a freshman at Windham High School, and their son, Graham is 12, who will be in seventh grade at Windham Middle School this fall.

Because of the pandemic, The Refuge has been streaming services online at or on The Refuge Maine Facebook page. 

Rev. Herald said The Refuge is deeply honored to be included among the other churches in Windham.

We want to come in standing on the shoulders of those who have done it before us,” he said.

And his message for those looking for a place to worship is simple.

“If you are searching for belonging, we believe that The Refuge is a place where all people can belong because sometimes you have to belong, before you believe,” Rev. Herald said. “Know that our goal at The Refuge is to move everyone, regardless of where they are to one step closer to Jesus. We want people to be where God wants them. If that is at The Refuge, then come on” <

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