Conference to sell three properties, use proceeds to further mission

March 10, 2015

By: Christa Meland

The Minnesota Conference is preparing to market for sale a camp and two church buildings. Proceeds from the sales will be strategically reinvested into the conference’s camping program and used for congregational development.

Decision Hills Camp in Spicer, Historic Wesley on Grant in downtown Minneapolis, and the Uptown Minneapolis building previously occupied by Joyce United Methodist Church will soon be advertised through various listing services.

“These are three unique and wonderful properties,” said Barb Carroll, the conference’s director of finance and administration, and treasurer. “Although they are no longer able to further the conference’s mission, their legacy will carry on through the reinvestment of sale proceeds, which will help start new churches, revitalize existing congregations, and further the conference’s camping ministry.”

Because the value of a property varies greatly depending on the prospective buyer’s intended use, each of the properties will be marketed without a listing price. Potential buyers will be invited to submit bids, which will be reviewed by the conference’s Board of Trustees.

Decision Hills Camp

Decision Hills was established as a United Methodist camp in 1957. Since then, it has been part of the faith story of thousands of United Methodists, many of whom returned to the 111-acre camp year after year. But youth programming has been suspended for about three years. Prior to that, Decision Hills was seeing a steady decline in participation, a large amount of required maintenance and upkeep, and a mounting deficit.

Last year, the conference’s Camp and Retreats Board (CRB) hired Kaleidoscope, Inc., a nationally recognized camp consultant, to study camp properties and suggest key moves to position them for long-term growth and financial stability. Divesting of Decision Hills was one of the group’s key recommendations.

Members of the 2012 annual conference session gave the conference’s Board of Trustees authorization to divest of Decision Hills in accordance with long-range goals and objectives for the camping ministry, and a decommissioning service that allowed people to say goodbye to the camp took place last summer.

The sale will allow the camping and retreat ministry to focus on the conference’s three primary camp sites—Northern Pines in Park Rapids, Koronis Ministries in Paynesville, and Camp Kowakan near Ely—and will position it for long-term growth and vitality.

Historic Wesley on Grant

This 124-year-old building, which is adjacent to the Minneapolis Convention Center, was built in 1891. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and received a local historical designation from the Minneapolis Preservation Commission.

It was home to the former Wesley United Methodist Church from the time it was built until the congregation discontinued in 2007. Recovery Church, now in St. Paul, occupied the building from 2007 to 2009, and it came under the care and ownership of the Minnesota Conference in 2010. Since then, the building has been used as an event center, and space is rented out for weddings, special events, and some group meetings; several nonprofits also lease office space, and a United Methodist small group ministry meets there.

The 30,300-square-foot building has beautiful architecture, stunning stained-glass windows, and strong acoustics. In recent years, the conference has invested significant funds into the building and has worked with a University of Minnesota architecture professor, who specializes in historic preservation and who has provided guidance on how to maintain the historical building.

The building has been referred to as the “mother church” in Minneapolis Methodism. Ten United Methodist churches have founding connections with the building, several of which are still in existence today—including Hennepin Avenue UMC, Simpson UMC, Park Avenue UMC, and Epworth UMC.

When United Methodist churches close their doors, their assets stay with the denomination—as was the case for this building and the Joyce building. But the conference’s mission is to equip congregations, not to hold onto buildings.

“The building is diverting resources we need to start new congregations,” said Carroll, adding that it would take a long time for a new church to get to a point where it could handle the building’s upkeep. “It would be wonderful if the building goes to another church, and we hope it will continue to have a presence in the Loring Park community as a place of outreach and ministry.”

Joyce UMC building

This building, located at 1219 West 31st Street in Uptown Minneapolis, was built in 1886. Until mid-2013 when the building came under the care and ownership of the conference, it was home to Joyce United Methodist Church, which closed its doors that year.

That same year, the building started being used by Uptown Church, a new church start within the conference—but it is a temporary location for Uptown Church, which is seeking a space that better meets its needs.

Carroll said Joyce has beautiful stained glass windows, a nice pipe organ, and some other features that the conference hopes to salvage if the property were to be torn down by a buyer for redevelopment.

“It’s always difficult to say goodbye to beloved buildings that hold memories and that served us well for so long,” Carroll said. “But the strategic decision to sell these properties will enable the assets to be used for ministry in a way that honors the legacies of these properties.”

Christa Meland is director of communications for the Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.

Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church

122 West Franklin Avenue, Suite 400 Minneapolis, MN 55404

(612) 870-0058