CARAG — Joyce Church at 3041 Fremont Ave. S. is closing, as the congregation is down to about 40 members.
“We’re not officially closing until the end of June, so we can ensure the food shelf and preschool have a place to be,” said Larry Nielsen, who is serving as interim pastor with his wife Mary Ellen.
Nielsen said the closure is due to several factors. The cost to maintain and heat the aging building is too high for the small congregation. Parking is a challenge, and nearby streets with permit parking restrictions provide an obstacle to church access.
At one time, the church had 500 members. As the congregation declined in size, the church attempted outreach efforts and other initiatives started by young clergy. The most recent effort launched in May, when Joyce rebranded itself as Table:31 and refocused its mission on faith and food, featuring community gardening and potlucks.
“Uptown has changed since the church started 126 years ago,” Nielsen said. “This is what happens to urban churches. It is always a struggle. If you were designing a church for Uptown, you would put in a whole lot of parking.”
Nielsen said the Joyce Uptown Food Shelf is in the process of moving its sponsorship to another church. The bilingual Joyce Preschool needs a larger space and was already looking for a new location, he said.
Nielsen said it is likely that a group called Grace in the City will manage the property over the next several years on behalf of the United Methodist Church.
“I don’t know what the future holds for it,” Nielsen said. “I don’t think anybody does.”