Church, lobbying group office –it’s all the same.
First United Methodist Church, a fixture in downtown Springfield for about 185 years, is selling its place of worship at Fifth Street and Capitol Avenue.I always find it funny when churches are for sale. Congregations tend to want to build their own churches to reflect their own brand of worship. Used churches are a little like used underwear –no thanks, I’ll buy new.
The downtown sanctuary, which seats about 850 people, connects to a separate, three-story classroom and office building. All together, the buildings total about 68,000 square feet.
Just a few blocks from the Capitol, the church's departure will leave behind a prime piece of property, according to Steve Myers, who specializes in downtown real estate and has been a member of the church for as long as he can remember.
"The prominent location is wonderful," said Myers, who suggested the corner is just right for a large state association that would prefer being closer to the Capitol and other important state offices. Myers also said the space could, of course, remain a place of worship, perhaps a downtown meeting center shared by multiple congregations.
All that aside, I’m sad to see the downtown First Meth go. I was married in that church. I had friends married there. And I remember the old building that sat on that location until, I believe, the mid 1970s. My mother had business in that old building when I was a kid and she would take me and maybe a friend over there after school and, while she did what she id, we would run the basement halls and explore the many rooms. It was a great old church. It seems hard to believe that in my lifetime two versions of the church would disappear. Shouldn’t churches, the buildings that is, last more than 30 years?
The new westside FUMC has already become a landmark on that end of town with its large steeple dominating the skyline. In some ways it’s representative of the commercial and residential shift to the west the city has taken. I just hope the new building lasts more than 30 years.