Rumors have been swirling in recent weeks about the future of Southampton’s Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, which has been situated on the corner of Street and Churchville roads for more than 100 years.
Murmurs have started that the building is being either closed, demolished or sold once senior Pastor Michael Carlson retires at the end of the year.
In order to gain some clarification, The Times spoke with Church Council President Lori Donahue.
“I’m not sure how far the rumors are circulating, but they’re circulating enough that they got back to us,” she said. “Some people in the congregation got very upset by this false information being spread around, so we’re just trying our best to squash those rumors and provide the accurate information so that, hopefully, some of those rumors will stop.”
According to Donahue, Good Shepherd is facing repair costs of almost $1 million to maintain the aging structure, which has been expanded several times since its founding as a one-room building in 1918.
“We have roof issues, some maintenance issues,” she said. “We have some exterior doors that need to be replaced, the parking lot needs to be repaved, we’re having an issue with our air conditioner. It’s just normal wear and tear on an old building, just like you’d have on an old house. But this building is a lot bigger than a house, so it gets a lot more expensive.”
Though the church has an annual budget of half a million dollars, Donahue said there are times when it’s a struggle just to meet that.
“So adding on almost another million on top of that is unfeasible,” she stated.
Donahue stressed that the congregation is in the midst of exploring their options, and nothing has been decided yet. Some of those options include selling the building and relocating, demolishing the building and rebuilding, selling part of the building/property, or merging with other local congregations.
Good Shepherd is carefully considering all possibilities as it works to determine the best next step.
“I don’t expect a decision for at least the next year or two,” Donahue said. “By the time we figure all this out and decide what we want to do and start getting the ball rolling, I don’t anticipate anything starting until at least 2021.”
Until then, the 900-plus-member Good Shepherd community is invited to continue worshipping on Sunday mornings, attending Sunday Church School, and participating in the church’s music program.
The process of finding a replacement for Pastor Carlson will also begin later this year.
More information is available at gslconline.org.
Samantha Bambino can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org