As soon as one Ashe County church closes its doors for good, another is about to relocate to new, more spacious digs.
The final sermon has been preached at Lansing United Methodist Church and the first Mass will soon be delivered at St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church of Jefferson’s new location off Luther Road.
The Lansing church held its final Sunday Services on April 27, and a representative from the Western North Carolina Conference of the United Methodist Church (WNCCUMC) was on hand to secure the building following worship services, according to Dana Brown, who attended the church.
“We’d been low on membership and money,” Brown said. “We’ve been struggling for a few years now.”
According to the WNCCUMC website, Lansing United Methodist Church had approximately 27 members with an average attendance of 10, which is much smaller compared to nearby Helton United Methodist Church (66 members, average attendance of 37) and Warrensville United Methodist Church (108 members, average attendance of 38).
Brown said most congregants have transferred to Helton and Warrensville.
Brown said she didn’t know what would become of the building, but that it will be managed by the WNCCUMC for the time being.
A representative from the WNCCUMC was contacted but had not yet responded to questions as of press time.
The Lansing Methodist congregation began as Graybeal’s Chapel in 1876, according to information provided by the U.S. Department of the Interior’s National Register of Historic Places, of which Lansing is a designate. The congregants reorganized as a Southern Methodist church in 1935 and construction began on the current building, located at 9402 N.C. 194, in 1938. Building was complete in 1944. The church building was part of “the resurgence of church building that took place in post-World War II Ashe County that is attributable to economic prosperity that followed the war.”
Whereas economics and low attendance forced the closure of Lansing United Methodist Church, increased attendance forced St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church of Jefferson to build a new church across U.S. 221, off Luther Road in Jefferson.
“We love being on the Main Street,” Father James Stuhrenberg stated in a press release late last year. “But we need more social space, more parking. In the summer time, there are people downstairs watching Mass on closed circuit TV.”
The church in downtown Jefferson has been on the market for some time now. Currently, High Country Realty of North Carolina has the property listed at $695,000.
While the property is being listed as a “church property,” there are no guarantees a church will step up and make the purchase.
According to its listing on High Country Realty of North Carolina’s website, the property could “grow as an existing church facility or expand to many possible commercial design uses.”
Stuhrenberg said he hopes a “medium-sized church would like to make it their new home.”
St. Francis is the only Catholic church in Ashe County and last year it celebrated its 50th anniversary.
The building that has housed St. Francis since 1962 was originally built in 1899 as a Presbyterian Church.
There are currently 277 registered families who belong to the church.
The new St. Francis should be finished within the next few months.
Sturhenberg had hoped it would be open by Christmas of last year and then Easter, but last summer’s rains and this year’s winter weather have delayed the church’s completion.
Alan Bulluck can be reached at (336) 846-7164 or on Twitter @albulluck.