York Town Square

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York, Pa.’s, condemned Trinity United Methodist Church offers lessons for the future

This is, appropriately enough, the first panel among many murals on the rear section of York, Pa.’s, Trinity United Methodist Church. The roof of the sanctuary section of the building is suffering structural issues, forcing the congregation to close the building. A decision is pending whether to raze or repair the building. (Update, 6/15/14: An independent church has purchased the building and is rehabilitating the entire structure.) Also of interest: Will another York, Pa., landmark come down? and Old Children’s Home of York another example of unleashed wrecker’s ball in 1960s era and Adding up all its clubs, organizations and churches, York County, Pa., is a quietly social place.

Parts of this will be used in a future York, Pa., Daily Record/Sunday News editorial… .
Trinity United Methodist Church – the impressive, but flawed structure that gained headlines after it was condemned – is now for sale.
And there’s interest in the East King Street structure… .

Time will tell whether the buyers are willing to take on the $225,000 selling price plus the estimated $400,000 cost of fixing the 100-plus-year-old structure.
But some lessons are emerging from the Trinity story, lessons that might help in a future in which other historic downtown churches are caught in the vice of dwindling congregations and high maintenance costs.
The first is that churches should let the community know when they’re pressed beyond measure, as was the Trinity congregation.
That way, other congregations looking for larger quarters are alerted. In the Trinity case, members of York’s burgeoning Latino community are interested in noted architect Harry Yessler-designed building.
Secondly, members of York’s large suburban congregations should look at these structures as opportunities to invest in the city – an investment in human capital as well as financial capital. This could include occupation of a vacant building, as in the Trinity case, or a combination of a suburban church plant with what is left of these historic congregations.
As for the latter model, a historic Midtown Harrisburg church combined with a younger congregation that had been meeting in various places in the city. The confessions – doctrinal statements – of the two churches lined up, and the two congregations came together. The building is busy with ministry today.
In York, some of the large suburban congregations left the city or its bordering areas to begin with. So returning to the city would be a back to the roots movement, not to mention an opportunity to aid those in human and spiritual need.
As for Trinity church, the notion remains that the building or property could be used for a community center.
That might work as a re-use for a church in some cases, but not in the East King Street area, with the YWCA effectively operating there.
The sum of all this is that York’s historic churches are treasures that must be re-used, not demolished, if they fall on hard times.
And that starts with congregations communicating their needs to the greater York community.

And this panel sums up the mural on the back of Trinity church.
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