Since the 1840s, parishioners have streamed through the doors of the United Methodist Church on Village Lane on their way to worship.
On Monday, 16 of those worshipers once again entered the historic Village Lane church. But by the time they left, the congregation as they’d known it was no more.
An “overwhelming majority” of the church’s members who were in attendance Monday afternoon voted to merge with North Fork United Methodist Church in Cutchogue — itself a conglomeration of three former United Methodists churches from Southold, Cutchogue and Greenport — according to the Rev Tom McLeod, pastor at NFUMC.
The Rev. McLeod said the decision was difficult for the church’s members, but represented a “positive and proactive” shift to keep the church alive.
The Rev. Adrienne Brewington, superintendent for the New York Conference chapter that oversees the Orient church, said the NFUMC congregation — which which there are around 60 regular members and about 100 total congregants — will now vote in April whether to accept the Orient churchgoers into their fold.
That, however, appears to be merely a formality at this point.
“They’ve been asking for this for six months,” the Rev. Brewington said, adding that the lure of the combined North Fork church had attracted members already. Incorporating the Orient congregation, she said, would strengthen their bond.
The consolidated North Fork church was founded in 2014, when two congregations in Southold and Cutchogue merged. Soon after, the Methodist church in Greenport closed and its parishioners also joined. Assets like the church buildings from all three congregations are either for sale or have been sold.
As for Orient’s church, the Rev. McLeod said the congregation had not decided what to do with the property at Monday’s meeting, they merely voted to join the other congregation. The fate of the church building will be decided in the coming months, he said.
Methodists have been worshiping in Orient for more than 200 years, beginning in the early 1800s with circuit riders, or clergy who traveled to various towns and villages to minister. The Orient United Methodist Church was built in 1835 on donated land; eight years later, the Methodist Society was incorporated.
Officially, the church has about 50 members.
Photo caption: Congregants at the Orient United Methodist Church, seen here Monday, voted this week to merge with a consolidated Methodist church in Cutchogue.