NEW ALBANY — Sunday marks the final worship service at Centenary United Methodist Church in New Albany.
While the door at 309 E. Spring St. closes for good, a new door opens next week just a few miles from the church's current location.
Centenary's congregation will move to Park Christian Church at 2231 Green Valley Road. The two churches will share the building and expenses but will remain separate congregations. Centenary's Sunday service will be at 9 a.m. while Park Christian will continue its worship service at 10:30 a.m.
In November 2018, the congregation at Centenary voted to sell its property due to the costly upkeep of the historic building and a dwindling congregation. There has been interest in the site, but the property has not yet been sold, according to Rev. Harriett Akins-Banman.
While there is some sadness with Sunday being the final worship service at Centenary, the congregation is excited about the new opportunity, Akins-Banman said. Centenary celebrated its 180th anniversary in April.
"I don't sense as much sadness with the congregation as I do excitement," Akins-Banman said. "It's been a long goodbye. It's time to move on."
She praised Rev. Lee Huckleberry and the congregation at Park Christian for inviting Centenary's congregation to share worship space. While Sunday worship will be at an earlier time, Akins-Banman said the transition has been a smooth one.
"We are practically moved in," she said. "It is going really well. We are moving upward and onward. They [Park Christian] have been so hospitable. Very few congregations have attempted this, but it makes sense to share space and costs."
Huckleberry said he received a letter last November about Centenary's decision to sell its building. He immediately called Akins-Banman and the two began to discuss the idea. They then shared the idea with their leadership groups and congregations. From there the decision was made to allow Centenary's congregation to use Park Christian for both Sunday worship and to continue its food ministry.
"Everything has gone incredibly smoothly," Huckleberry said. "My congregation is very generous and hospitable.
"It's two congregations at one building. This is not a merger. They will have their distinctive schedule."
Huckleberry said the two congregations may have a few joint services throughout the year. Park Christian is 184 years old and has around 140 members.
Akins-Banman said the kitchen at Park Christian has been upgraded so Centenary can continue offering free meals every Sunday and Thursday. Park Christian offers a free meal on the third Monday of the month. Thursday's free meal offering at 6 p.m. will be Centenary's first event at Park Christian.
Huckleberry said it was important for Centenary to continue its food ministry. He said the kitchen at Park Christian received an electrical upgrade.
Centenary first opened in 1839 as an outgrowth of the downtown Wesley Chapel, the first Methodist church in New Albany, during a period of rapid growth in Methodism. In 1841, Centenary became an independent congregation. The church now has around 50 members.