OTTUMWA — As the newly merged Grace Ottumwa United Methodist Church continues to discover its identity, three big weights have been removed from its shoulders. All three former Ottumwa United Methodist Church buildings have sold.
Public records show the following land transfers:
• Wesley United Methodist Church to Frase Company Rentals, LLC, 430 E. Second St., dated Aug. 6 for $147,000.
• Grace Fellowship, a congregation of the United Methodist Church, to 202 4th St., LLC, 202 Fourth St., dated Sept. 6 for $205,000.
• Grace Fellowship, a congregation of the United Methodist Church, to Jane Chapman, 175 N. Willard St., dated Sept. 12 for $185,000.
The total for all three sales comes to $537,000.
“It went like clockwork,” said Grace Pastor Chris Childs about the sales. “I’d say better than most people expected.”
He said the church has put the money into a reserve, interest-bearing account for the church’s future location. “It’s a good start for our new building. Every penny stayed in Ottumwa,” he said. “We already have people making donations to our new building. We’d like to be moved into our new home within the next three years.”
Childs said the congregation is looking at all options for its future home. He said they need a space that’s big enough to hold a sanctuary, a fellowship hall, a kitchen and space for children’s and youth ministries. It’s also important for the building to be in an accessible location, both in visibility and for those with disabilities.
“The last thing we would want to do is move to a new location and 10 years down the road say, ‘This is too small; we have to move,’” he said.
Childs said it’s important to him — and the church — to ask itself, “What kind of church are we meant to be?”
“We want the mission to define the church rather the building defining the mission,” he said. “It think there’s some excitement to see what this looks like. The most exciting part, for me, is to see people make that transition for us to become something new.”
The church is not ruling anything out yet, he said. Building new is “absolutely on the table,” but the purchase of an existing building is also possible. “We’re assuming, whatever location we select, there would be remodeling that needs to be done,” Childs said.
And when it comes to the former church buildings, Childs was grateful to see them find a new purpose.
He said it’s his understanding that the former First UMC building will be remodeled to upscale apartments, the former Wesley UMC building to a retail space and rental hall, while the former Willard Street UMC building will become a private home.
“I’m grateful for that,” he said. “I wouldn’t want to see them torn down. They’re gorgeous and part of our history as a community.”