(Editor's note: This is the first article of a three-day series about a Narberth church closing next year. Visit Patch on Thursday and Friday for more coverage.)
Narberth United Methodist Church's congregation has decided to sell the property and attend a Bryn Mawr church instead, and the effect will extend well beyond the walls of both buildings.
The 1-acre church property at Essex and Price avenues will go on the market within a week for an asking price of $1.7 million, said Narberth real estate agent John Duffy.
Members voted just before Easter to merge with another church and were soon welcomed by St. Luke United Methodist Church, said Narberth UMC pastor Lydia Munoz.
The United Methodist Church will discontinue the Narberth charter in May 2013, which means services must end by then. St. Luke pastor David Tatgenhorst said he expects the changeover to happen close to February 2013.
Many Narberth community groups who meet in the church are looking for new digs:
- The Narberth Community Food Bank "has no intention of leaving the borough of Narberth," coordinator Gigi Tevlin-Moffat told Patch.
- The Narberth Community Theatre is leaving Narberth: for a Delaware County stage that can accommodate the final two shows of the 2012-13 season. Whether the name retains "Narberth" has not been decided, said theatre board president Steve Arcidiacono, and the Delaware County accommodation is temporary.
- Staff of the New Horizons Senior Center are checking into possibly using the Montgomery Early Learning Centers building on Sabine Avenue, said borough government manager Bill Martin.
A congregation that used to number in the hundreds has dwindled to about a dozen regular attendees, Munoz said. A new, more progressive congregation called Plumbline began in the church in 2009 and has about 30 to 40 regular attendees.
Munoz is pastor to both congregations; at St. Luke, she will conduct separate services for Plumbline while members of the original congregation can join their St. Luke counterparts for Tatgenhorst's services.
About 75 percent of all Narberth UMC members, Munoz said, are planning to make the eventual switch to St. Luke, which stands three miles away.
Narberth United Methodist Church was built in 1920; the parsonage next door went up in 1900. Another building across Essex Avenue was the sanctuary before 1920.
The property is zoned R-3 residential, so any developer that bought it would be free to replace the church buildings with homes. Church members would prefer to see the church they leave remain a church, according to Munoz and Duffy.
(Check back Thursday and Friday for more coverage of the Narberth United Methodist Church news.)