Cumberland Times-News

Local News

June 17, 2010

City church to close doors after more than 100 years

Congregation to vote on consolidation Monday

CUMBERLAND — After being consecrated more than 100 years ago, Mapleside United Methodist Church may finally be forced to close its doors after merging with another church due to financial issues.

According to a history of the church compiled by trustee Bette Reynolds, the Mapleside congregation began in 1905 and the chuch building was consecrated in 1906.

“The first church was built on the corner of Maple Street and First Street,” said Reynolds. “It was financed by Rev. William A. Melvin and built by the families that were involved in the church. Hughes Walden Burke gave them the lot for the church and donated a lot on Gleason Street for the parsonage. The fourth generation of descendants are still members of the church.”

A church study group voted in May to discontinue Mapleside, though the vote was not unanimous. The exact vote count was kept confidential.

“Our denomination allows for a study to be done of any church to determine its viability,” said Mapleside Pastor Michael Leedom, who added that the criteria that led Mapleside to be considered unviable included financial problems.

“They struggled to pay what’s needed to have even a part-time minister,” said Leedom. “They were in no financial position to continue because they weren’t going to meet those financial challenges.”

Despite the determination by the study group no final decision has yet been made. Churchgoers at Mapleside will be able to vote Monday to determine what they’ll do. If they decide to merge, the fate of the church building itself will be up to the United Methodist Church’s District Committee on Building and Location, which may or may not decide to close it down.

The most likely candidate for a merge is Emmanuel Bethel United Methodist Church.

Leedom said that this is not the first time that a church in the Cumberland area has had to merge with another to remain in existence.

“New Covenant United Methodist Church, for instance, is the result of a merge between Kingsley, Grace and First United Methodist,” said Leedom. “These churches were no longer viable to maintain ministries or physical structure.”

Leedom added that some members of the congregation are not happy with the possibility of merging.

“I understand they’re upset, but this is not the first church to go through this process,” said Leedom. “It happens all the time.”

Leedom said that the last Sunday at Mapleside will include a celebration of ministry that will include bringing symbols of faith like baptismal water to Emmanuel Bethel, transferring the definition of ministry as a church to a new location.

“Anytime people have memories attached to a physical building, people have difficulty leaving that physical structure.” added Leedom. “But the church isn’t the building, it’s the people.”

Cory Galliher can be reached at cgalliher@times-news.com.

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