The Vineyard Gazette – Martha’s Vineyard News

Edgartown Federated Church members voted Sunday to sell the Mayhew Parsonage on South Water Street, capping a lengthy planning process that began more than two years ago and included litigation.

Built in the early 1820s, the parsonage housed the sedentary ministers of the church for most of its history.

Proceeds from the eventual sale of the property will be used to pay off church debt and secure a new parsonage. — Ray Ewing

But the high cost of maintaining the property, combined with a national trend of declining church membership, weighed against keeping the parsonage, according to a summary provided to the Gazette by the Acting Federated Minister. Charlotte Wright, who declined to comment on the decision.

Overlooking Edgartown Harbour, the parsonage sits on the 17th century property of preacher Thomas Mayhew, who founded the church in 1642.

The current Meeting House, with its soaring steeple, was built in 1828 on South Summer Street, one block from the parsonage, which remained in the Mayhew family until the mid-20th century.

In 1956, descendant Sarah Joy Mayhew bequeathed the manse to the church on the condition that it remain occupied by ministers or otherwise used for church purposes, or else be donated to the now known preservation society as Historic New England, records show.

A state rule against perpetuities later placed a 30-year limit on how long such a condition can be enforced, clearing the way for the church to seek clear title to the property.

A messy legal battle with Historic New England ended in 2020 when the Massachusetts Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the church.

The church then began two years of conversations among its members and leaders about whether to keep or sell the parsonage. The property is valued at $12 million.

“Unsurprisingly, it requires maintenance and renovation beyond our current budgetary means. The trust left by Sarah Joy Mayhew, to be used for the maintenance of the parsonage, is no longer sufficient to meet all of her maintenance requests,” said a church newsletter that was sent to members of the church. church via email earlier this month.

Proceeds from the sale of the property could fund a new parsonage, settle the church’s outstanding debts of approximately $200,000, fund its annual structural deficit of $80,000, and have enough to establish an endowment that would support operations. of the church, including building maintenance, on- and off-Island service work and worldwide missions, the bulletin said.

At Sunday’s meeting, which took place both in person at the church and on Zoom, a total of 82 church members voted on their choices, easily achieving the 75% majority required for a vote. of “selling” prevails, according to a follow-up bulletin that was sent to members yesterday.

But don’t look for the sell sign to come up just yet.

“We will have a lot to decide in the weeks and months to come as to how quickly we should proceed,” the bulletin said.

“The congregation will have multiple opportunities to participate in future decisions about how proceeds from a sale may be used.”

Jerry B. Hatch