Religion

Cross atop Charlotte's 'ski slope' church rescued from wrecking ball

Demolition crews save the cross from Sharon UMC steeple

The former Sharon United Methodist Church, now called SouthPark Church, is being redeveloped. The church will return to the site as part of a mixed use development in two years.
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The former Sharon United Methodist Church, now called SouthPark Church, is being redeveloped. The church will return to the site as part of a mixed use development in two years.

The cross atop Charlotte's "ski slope" church across from SouthPark mall was rescued from the wrecking ball Wednesday in advance of the demolition of the rest of the steeple in coming days.

A Charlotte landmark for decades because of its distinctive architecture — a steeple and roof that look like a ski slope — the church formerly known as Sharon United Methodist is now called SouthPark Church. And it will return to the site (the corner of Sharon Road and Morrison Boulevard) in a new building with the old cross in late 2020.

The new home for SouthPark Church, complete with a 750-seat performing arts center, will be in the middle of Apex SouthPark — a new development that will also include 345 apartments, a 175-room hotel, a six-story parking deck and 88,000 square feet of shops and restaurants.

During the demolition and rebuilding, Sunday worship is held at the nearby Regal Cinemas in Phillips Place. The church has 700 people on its membership rolls, with about 300 showing up most Sundays.

Despite its name change, the church is still part of the United Methodist denomination.

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Without a building to call home, SouthPark Church has had to rely some on other churches. It has temporarily moved its columbarium, with the remains of 40 past congregants, to Myers Park United Methodist Church. It has performed funeral services at St. Stephen's United Methodist. It joined with Sharon Presbyterian Church for a Christmas service and with Matthews United Methodist at Easter. And it has office space for now at Wesley United Methodist.

"The community's helping us out," said SouthPark Church Pastor Kyle Thompson.

Sharon United Methodist Church opened in 1966, worshiping first at Sharon School. In 1970, the congregation moved into the "ski slope" church building. The church was supposed to have been where SouthPark mall is now, but developers of the upscale mall suggested a swap and threw in some money.

The ski-slope steeple and roof got a lot of media attention from the start. Daredevils used to climb up, then use trays from Burger King as mini-sleds. In November 1987, a UNC Charlotte student pledging for a fraternity broke an ankle sliding down the church’s steep roof at 1:25 a.m. It was part of an initiation challenge.

The new building planned for SouthPark Church will have a traditional sanctuary and the more modern performing arts center for worship. During the week, Pastor Thompson said, the church will open up the performing arts center to the public. And yes, the metal cross that has jutted heavenward atop the steeple since 1966 will be part of the new church, he said.

Tim Funk: 704-358-5703; @timfunk
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