Berry Temple United Methodist Church announces closure

THE END IS NEAR: The Berry Temple United Methodist Church formed in 1887 as part of the now defunct Allen High School. The church will hold its final service on Sunday, June 30. Photo by Thomas Calder

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.”


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About Thomas Calder
Thomas Calder received his MFA in Fiction from the University of Houston's Creative Writing Program. He has worked with several publications, including Gulf Coast and the Collagist.

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5 thoughts on “Berry Temple United Methodist Church announces closure

  1. Ann Woodford

    This is such a beautiful building. I am sorry that it is going to close. My memories are from my days at Allen High School. Those of us who usually attended other churches could always depend on attending Berry Temple when there was bad weather. I surely miss those days. May God bless the members who have taken care of this church for so many years.

  2. Jane Carlile Bond

    It would be interesting to know whether the service has changed in the 50 years since I served as a US-2 at United Methodist Allen High School in 1969-71. It was a church that was very traditional and the girls preferred the AME church down the block that was more lively and more like their churches at home.

  3. Dottie Lovelady Rogers

    This happened to the home church I grew up in and to the church I attended for 30 years of my adult life. When the congregation is going through this painful process it seems like it’s only happening to your church. We tried many things through the final years to stop the bleeding. We were discouraged from having meetings with other congregations in our situation for conversation, idea exchange, and support. Who knows what might happen if the lay people actually get together? It finally ended with a whimper. No newspaper article to mark the event. It feels like the UMC doesn’t care what’s happening to local congregations as more close their doors each week, but they don’t know what to do either. There are too many bigger battles to fight. About half of our members ended up in other denominations, so the UMC decline continues.

  4. Dawn Chesser

    My mom attended this church from 1958-1960 when she taught at Allen as a US 2. What a tragic story to have lost so much important history.

  5. linda brown

    This is just one more church closing but the problem is not gentrification or redlining. At one time everyone went to church and that is no longer true. Churches were small community gathering places for fellowship, learning, and outreach. Every Sunday or Saturday you could see people walking to their house of worship. Later you could see them driving to church. Not now. The Presbyterian Church started in 1794 in Swannannoa has closed, Dix Creek Methodist, St. Marks many more are closed or hanging on with less than 50 members. Most people younger than 60 do not attend traditional community churches. The service is too long and the churches too small. It takes money to keep the doors open and more people than just in a neighborhood. “If you don’t hear crying ,your church is dying” It breaks my heart to see another historic church close. They did many good things for the community and their history will soon be forgotten.

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