Interesting religion news today from my town (that’s Carlisle): a major merger of three Methodist churches.
I have written about mergers in this space recently. Most recently, Abundant Life Ministries and Maranatha Church of God in Christ are merging this spring if things go according to the plan.
But usually mergers are with smaller churches like these. For example, in January St. Mark Evangelical Lutheran Church in Hanover, York County voted to merge with St. Paul Lutheran Church of McSherrystown, Adams County.
The reason? Because attendance at the latter church had dropped to about 20 people on a typical Sunday.
And attendance is the same reason Allison United Methodist, Grace United Methodist and First United Methodist voted to merge Sunday in Carlisle. But these are not small churches. In fact, they are some of the biggest, most beautiful churches in Carlisle.
I know — First United is across the street from my house. It’s wonderful church bells ring out every day at noon and 6 p.m.
But the reality is that attendance has dropped about 25 percent since 2003. The three churches are drew a combined average of 740 people to Sunday services in 2010.
A byproduct of that is church buildings that are no longer needed. I know someone who recently purchased a church in Mont Alto because he got a great deal. It sits empty as a place for storage.
The Catholic Church is busy trying to sell several churches in Philadelphia due to declining parishes.
I have done several stories of empty churches, as well as new churches and faith-based organizations looking for homes. Again, most are small organizations.
The Carlisle merger is a pretty big deal. Officials say they haven’t yet selected a “home church,” but the implication is obvious: the merged church will at some point want to shed building(s).
I just hope it isn’t the one in my neighborhood. I kinda like the bells.