Former UCC church becomes Grace Community Church
Building sold for $1
NEW ULM — While the United Church of Christ (UCC) closed at the end of last year, it’s doors won’t stay locked for long.
On Friday, the church building was sold to Grace Community Church, an Evangelical Free Church of New Ulm, for $1.
At the annual meeting last May, the UCC church board voted to close the church after the church council president’s term ended and nobody was able or willing to be board president or vice president, the Rev. Diane Hatman said.
“With no governing body for the church, we couldn’t be a church anymore,” said Hatman. “It was a unanimous decision to close the church and give the money we had to someone who really needed it and put it to good use.”
Hatman said 32 checks were written to various charitable organizations.
“I thought it was a lovely gesture, because we didn’t just use the money to barely stay alive,” Hatman added. “I thought the congregation was very wise in its choice.”
Hatman said she is sorry to be gone.
“I love what I do, but I thought it was more honoring to God to choose this way, giving our wealth including the building to someone else,” she said.
Hatman said Grace Community Church Pastor Phil Schenk called her about the church when he heard it was going to close last year.
“I thought yes, then God’s work could continue in this spot,” said Hatman. “Now Grace Community Church will continue God’s work here in New Ulm.”
The church building at 301 S. Minnesota was built in 1973 on the site of the First Congregational Church.
“I get goose bumps when I talk about the church,” Hatman said. “It’s sad that we won’t be here but, God’s hand moves us where we need to be.”
She plans to take a year sabbatical in the Twin Cities.
“It’s exciting for us as a church,” said Pastor Schenk. “I came here in 2011. We began meeting as a church at the New Ulm Community Center. We never had a church building out of which to work. God just opened the door for us to be able to walk into a facility. It was a gift.”
Schenk said the former UCC church found in its records it had a fund for church upkeep and repairs.
“When they realized we were going to get the building, instead of disbursing the money in some other way, they did some building upgrades for us,” Schenk said. “I’ve never heard of such a thing.”
Hatman said church upgrades in preparation for the sale included making rest rooms handicap-accessible, replacing flooring, removing some walls and paving a parking lot to make the church more attractive.
Schenk said a new fireplace was added to the church.
“It was a tremendous gift of generosity,” said Schenk. “It’s another reason why we say God’s hand has been in this the whole way.”
Schenk said Grace Community Church attendance is 130 to 140 on Sunday.
Grace Community Church’s first Sunday service is scheduled for 9 a.m., Sunday, Feb. 6. Hatman is scheduled to talk about the church’s history. A dedication service is scheduled for Sunday, Feb. 20.
The Grace Community Church office will also move to the new church.
For more information, visit https://gracemn.org/