Merger discussions between two of Buffalo’s oldest mainline Protestant churches – one Episcopalian, the other Presbyterian – have ceased for now.
Members of First Presbyterian Church have decided to remain in the church’s historic buildings on Symphony Circle at least through 2014.
“We’re not talking with any other congregations at this time,” said the Rev. Philip S. Gittings, interim pastor.
The leadership of First Presbyterian Church was in conversations last year with Trinity Episcopal Church on Delaware Avenue about the possibility of sharing buildings, staff and ministries.
One proposal had First Presbyterian, the city’s first congregation, dating from before the War of 1812, selling its buildings and moving to the campus of Trinity Church, which was formed in 1836.
But the idea didn’t gain traction with the full congregation of First Presbyterian. Members have decided instead to try to bolster the church’s finance, stay at Symphony Circle and fix the landmark E.B. Green-designed building, which needs significant repairs to its iconic tower.
The congregation, which has had to dip into its endowment to help pay operating expenses, hopes to reduce such deficit spending through increased member giving, growing the membership and pruning expenses.
The church also is exploring new partnerships with Houghton College, Westside Ministries and other organizations interested in possibly renting space.
If its financial goals aren’t reached by the end of next year, the church’s leadership may resume merger talks with interested congregations or explore a move to smaller builder.