115-year-old church closing in Monroe this weekend

Sutton Park Baptist Church in Monroe
Sutton Park Baptist Church in Monroe abell@charlotteobserver.com

A 115-year-old church in Monroe that struggled to gain members is closing this weekend.

But in its place will be a growing Hispanic congregation, which is set to take over its McIntyre Street building this fall.

Sutton Park Baptist Church had about 15 to 18 regular members ranging in age from 65 to 85, interim pastor Ralph Holt said Wednesday.

“The people are hurting” over the end of the mission, Holt said.

He said the church, whose members are white, was unable to reach out to people in the predominantly Hispanic and African-American neighborhood to get them to join Sutton Park. They went to other churches.

Some Sutton Park members had belonged to the church for as long as 70 years. The ministry began elsewhere in Monroe and entered its current facility in the late 1950s when the congregation numbered around 300.

Holt said the end of Sutton Park is bittersweet. His final sermon will focus on how to get help from God.

“There’s some sadness, but it’s sadness with hope because they see God’s will” in another congregation using the church, Holt said.

Sutton Park is a member of the Union Baptist Association in Monroe and deeded the church complex to the association, said association director of mission Dennis Burton.

The association entered into a partnership with Lee Park Baptist Church in Monroe and Iglesia Camino Baptist Church, a Hispanic congregation that has been meeting at Lee Park for about five years.

It’s definitely a big blessing for us.

Miguel Santos, Iglesia Camino’s pastor

Under the agreement, Iglesia Camino will move into the McIntyre Street facility in October, and the site will be renamed Sutton Park Baptist Mission Center.

Burton thinks Iglesia Camino could outgrow that space in a year or so, in which case it could find a new home and another growing church could move into the center.

Miguel Santos, Iglesia Camino’s pastor, said the 100 or so members of his congregation are excited about the move.

“We’ll be in the middle of the Spanish and African-American community,” he said. “It’s definitely a big blessing for us.”

Adam Bell: 704-358-5696, @abell