On Sunday, June 30, the Berry Temple United Methodist Church will hold its final service. According to its pastor, the Rev. Darryl Dayson, the institution has struggled with attendance for the last two decades, with current membership down to just 13 congregants
The congregation formed in 1887 as part of the now defunct Allen High School, a private institution for African American girls. Originally located on Hill Street, Berry Temple later moved to its current site on College Place (then College Street); its present house of worship was built in the early 1950s.
Dayson says members of the congregation have responded to the imminent closure with sadness and grief, along with moments of anger. “They wonder why it has to be this way,” he says.
Dayson arrived at the church in 2017 by way of St. Paul’s United Methodist Church on Merrimon Avenue and Hillside Street. He believes his short stint with Berry Temple limited his ability to effectively develop and build the congregation.
The Western North Carolina Conference of the United Methodist Church is in talks with a local nonprofit interested in using the space as a community center, Dayson says.
In Dayson’s view, the story of Berry Temple is an all-too-common one in Asheville, as well as the country at large. “Through gentrification and redlining, communities of color are being pushed out to the margins,” he says.
To curtail this trend, the pastor continues, residents must come together and find solutions. Otherwise, he notes, “communities such as Berry Temple will continue to shrink until it’s hard for the masses to fully understand the beauty and the community that black folks and communities of color have contributed to the building of places like Asheville.”