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New North Fork Methodist Church set to open this week

After five years, the new North Fork Methodist Church in Southold will open its doors this Sunday and welcome community members. 

The Rev. Tom MacLeod, pastor of the merged Methodist congregations in Cutchogue, Southold, Greenport and Orient, said the certificate of occupancy for the building, located at the intersection of Hortons Lane and Route 48, was signed by the building department Monday after the property was under review with the town Planning Board for several weeks.

The proposal for a one-story, 7,640-square-foot church building and 42 parking spots on the 2.45-acre parcel was approved by Southold Town in November 2017, according to an article in The Suffolk Times. However, concerns from the planning board remained, the Rev. MacLeod said, regarding the building’s outdoor light pollution. Light fixtures had to be modified to comply with code to minimize the amount of blue light in the nighttime environment.

In June 2014, church officials closed the former Southold United Methodist Church and put it up for sale, citing declining membership and ever-increasing maintenance and staff costs. In 2016, that building was converted into the Southold Opera House.

After Methodist churches in Greenport and Orient shut down for similar reasons, the three formerly independent congregations have been worshiping together in Cutchogue under the name North Fork United Methodist Church.

Services at the Cutchogue location concluded last Sunday, June 2, the Rev. MacLeod said. A buyer was found for North Fork United Methodist Church in December 2018 and the sale is expected to be completed mid-July.

The new church is energy efficient and handicapped-accessible and includes a sanctuary space for worship with a 144-person occupancy, according to a final floor plan. The floor plan also includes a main hall, fellowship wing, kitchen, three bathrooms, two Sunday school classrooms, a children’s wing, office space, pastor’s office and dining hall with tables.

The Rev. MacLeod added that the work on the project began with the parish long before he joined Southold UMC.

“This was something that was envisioned by the church community for a long time. They began addressing it before I got here,” he said. “I just came in as the merger.”

Although they’ve successfully constructed a new place of worship, there’s more work to be done, he said.

“The church is known for Sunday worship, but … the church’s ministries — that’s the food pantry and all our outreach services — are trying to construct a sense of community that operates Monday-Saturday for the town.”

The Rev. MacLeod compared the task of completing Southold UMC to the Book of Nehemiah in the Bible — a book about rebuilding a destroyed temple outside of Jerusalem, he said.

“[Nehemiah] had to rebuild the walls, with a sword in one hand and a trowel in the other,” he said. “I feel the same way, I’m holding the Bible in one hand — the sword — and a trowel in the other.”

A dedication service will be held Sunday, June 16, to officially unveil the new building. Clergy from the UMC New York Annual Conference are expected to attend.

“This marks the end of one journey and the beginning of another,” the Rev. MacLeod said.

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