For an almost 200-year-old congregation, a planned merger with a sister church is “bittersweet.”
As of Monday, July 1, the Bridgehampton United Methodist Church, which was founded in 1815, and the Southampton United Methodist Church will merge to become the Hamptons United Methodist Church Serving Bridgehampton and Southampton. The Hamptons UMC will be housed at the current Main Street location of the Southampton UMC and will be presided over by Pastor Leslie Duroseau, who has led the Southampton church since July 2010.
After the merger, members of the Bridgehampton church will have to make the drive to Southampton for services, which is a big change for a congregation that includes some lifelong members, said Bridgehampton UMC Pastor Joanne Utley.
Both pastors described the transition as “bittersweet,” but added that everyone’s trying to make the best of the situation. Plans for the future Bridgehampton church building are still tentative, but Ms. Utley stressed that the building will continue to be used.
Ms. Duroseau, who’s poised to take over the new Hamptons UMC, kept a positive outlook on the situation: “It’s given us a lot more resources to do things in the community.” Included in those resources is the church in Bridgehampton, which both pastors talked about being used for community outreach in the future, and the parsonage, which Ms. Duroseau indicated may be used to provide temporary housing for victims of domestic abuse, or possibly to bring a youth minister and the minister’s family to the area.
The Bridgehampton church also will continue to be the meeting place for Faro a las Naciones, a Latino congregation that has been using the space for the past 15 years.
The official decision to merge was handed down by the United Methodist Church’s district superintendent, Adrienne Brewington, in April, but Ms. Duroseau indicated it had not come as a total surprise. The congregation at the Bridgehampton church has “gotten smaller and smaller over the years,” said Ms. Utley, who estimated that an average of eight people show up for worship each week. She attributed that in part to there being three other Methodist churches in a six-mile radius. Ms. Duroseau also said there had been a number of deaths among the congregants.
Ms. Utley, who’s been the pastor in Bridgehampton since July 2009, will be moving to a parish in Roscoe, New York, after the merger.
For the “small family church” in Bridgehampton, the final service will be held on June 23, with guest organist Walter Klauss. On June 30, the last service before the two churches become one will be held at the Southampton church and will presided over by both Ms. Utley and Ms. Duroseau, with preaching by Ms. Brewington as well. A brunch will be held following the ceremony and the public is invited to join.