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Congregation prepares for exodus amid plans to repurpose historic church

The plan to set up a pediatric clinic at 606 East Davis Street would inevitably displace the Methodist church that has called this spot home from time immemorial.

But the site’s proposed conversion to this new use won’t necessarily close the books on the decades-old congregation that has traditionally inhabited this location.

It appears that the leadership of Davis Street United Methodist Church has plans to move to a smaller, less high-maintenance building once it has handed over its historic abode to the property’s prospective new owners.

The Alamance News has been unable to reach the church’s pastor, Edgar DeJesus, or any of his associates, to confirm their intent to relocate the church. Yet, the congregation’s potential move has been a recurring motif in its newsletters, which dwell on the high cost and underutilized space of the church’s current location along Davis Street.

“Maintaining a large church is simply not sustainable and staying in the current location is not a viable option for the future of Davis Street UMC. Selling the church campus will release us from the financial burden [of maintaining the current location] and give the church the leverage and resources to [continue its] mission and ministry for the next 30 – 40 years.” – Church’s pastor, rev. edgar dejesus

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In January and February of this year, the church’s newsletters repeatedly alluded to the inquiries of a sustainability task force that had spent the previous two years contemplating the future of Davis Street UMC. On March 30, the church’s pastor directly addressed the task force’s conclusion that, if the church is to have a future at all, it would necessarily be in a location other than 606 East Davis Street.

“Maintaining a large church is simply not sustainable and staying in the current location is not a viable option for the future of Davis Street UMC,” DeJesus goes on to sum up the task force’s recommendation. “Selling the church campus will release us from the financial burden [of maintaining the current location] and give the church the leverage and resources to [continue its] mission and ministry for the next 30 – 40 years.”

At the time that DeJesus issued this newsletter, the church’s congregation had not formally voted on whether to give up its historic campus for another, more favorable site. Even so, the church council had already approved a letter of intent to sell the church property – which, according to a newsletter from March 23, was thrashed out in “many back-and-forth conversations” that occurred on the heels of an offer and counteroffer for the East Davis Street campus.

The church’s congregation ultimately voted on the property’s sale following its Palm Sunday service on April 10. Later that month, the church issued a statement to confirm that its parishioners had “overwhelmingly” agreed “to take a leap of faith” during this vote and move ahead with the sale of the property.

“Selling the church campus was not an easy decision,” the church added in its newsletter from April 27. “We have church members who grew up in this church throughout their lives with lots of memories— baptisms, confirmations, weddings, funerals, worship, Sunday Schools, potluck lunches and many more. Church members remembered the times when the church was packed with lots children and youth. There were many folks going to the Sunday School classes and folks had a hard time getting parking spaces. Those were the days! Now we recognize that we are not what we used to be.”

The congregation’s decision to sell has effectively put an expiration date on its longstanding connection to the same patch of East Davis Street. According to the county’s tax office, the church has owned this property since 1892 – predating the land records that are electronically available from Alamance County’s register of deeds.

Davis Street UMC has yet to post any online updates about the search for its future location.

Its pastor nevertheless described some of the criteria for this new earthly abode when he addressed the congregation in his newsletter from March 30.

In that newsletter, DeJesus insisted that the church’s leaders would search for a new home “that is centrally located to where our church membership lives.” He went on to assure his parishioners that Davis Street UMC would continue to thrive after this prospective change of venue.

“Through the power of the Holy Spirit,” he added, “we will be replanted as a church with a new start in a new home that is much smaller, more efficient, and more flexible. In other words, Davis Street UMC will be more hopeful, exciting, and promising!”

“Through the power of the Holy Spirit, we will be replanted as a church with a new start in a new home that is much smaller, more efficient, and more flexible. In other words, Davis Street UMC will be more hopeful, exciting, and promising!” – Church pastor Rev. Edgar DeJesus


Read coverage of the plans a developer outlined to Burlington’s planning board: https://alamancenews.com/planning-board-hears-plans-for-sale-of-davis-street-umc/

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