A growing congregation of Spanish-speaking and bilingual Christians is the new owner of a historic York City church condemned by the city and once slated for demolition.
The Potter's House, which currently worships at rented space on South Hartley Street, plans to spend $500,000 on renovations to the former Trinity United Methodist Church at 241 E. King St.
Fundraising to cover those costs officially began Thursday, the same day the 140-year-old building changed hands.
Sue Diaz, the congregation's director of fundraising and public relations, said the first goal is to renovate a newer part of the building -- built for youth programs and social gatherings -- before the end of the year.
"There's a lot of work that needs to be done before they will lift that condemnation," Diaz said. "As soon as we get that
work completed, then we can actually start holding services."
However, the church sanctuary, traditionally used for worship services, is likely to remain off limits for longer.
Engineers have repeatedly said the building's truss-supported slate roof is falling apart. Without the financial means to fix it and unable to find a buyer for the property, Trinity's congregation found itself last year in a quagmire of conflicting directives from city officials.
Having deemed the building unsafe and at risk of imminent collapse, York City's fire chief ordered the church immediately demolished. The congregation, attempting to comply with the order, applied for a demolition permit. But the request was denied by the York City Council, which sided with preservationists who found the church too culturally and aesthetically important to knock down.
The two sides ultimately compromised by allowing Trinity to temporarily stabilize the building's roof, alleviating the immediate safety concerns. The congregation paid for the removal of 30 tons of slate and reignited their search for a buyer.
Raising the money: Diaz said the Potter's House will seek federal grants and private donations to fund the roof's permanent repair.
"The support of the local community is what's going to be key for us," she said.
The Potter's House, also known as Casa del Alfarero, was founded by a pastor from Florida in 2007 and has grown to a membership of more than 200 today, Diaz said. The church has a come-as-you-are attitude aimed at attracting young people, she said.
"We want them to feel like they have fellowship and they belong somewhere," she said.
As for Trinity's members, they are in the process of formally merging with Fourth United Methodist Church in the city.
The sale comes as a big relief to many Trinity members who once thought their church would be reduced to rubble, said Les Shrader, a church trustee.
"Many of us have a lot of memories in that church. A lot of us were baptized there. A lot of us were married there," he said. "It's been a real stress on a lot of the members. I think now we can put closure to it."
-- Erin James may also be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.