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Temple church sale concerns neighbors

(Source: KXXV) (Source: KXXV)
TEMPLE, TX (KXXV) -

What happens to a church that's no longer a church?

Some folks in Temple want to know because one of the town's oldest congregations recently put out a for sale sign on some prime real estate.

Temple's First Presbyterian Church first came together in the fall of 1881.

A couple of weeks ago, the church held its last service before merging with another church on the other side of town.

Mande Driggers believes churches play a huge role in healthy communities.

Driggers said she's sad to see the church close its doors after serving temple for 137 years and hang out the for-sale sign.

"They're anchors of the community. They serve the people of the community with almost no strings attached. They've always been a light, especially in the bible belt, they've been a huge part of what's made Texas, Texas," Driggers said.

But experts say more and more churches move or just shut down... leaving lots of empty real estate.

“Since 2000, the Catholic Church has closed about 2,000 churches and same with the Presbyterian Church,” said Courtney Peshkov of Temple’s Aldrich-Thomas Commercial Real Estate firm.

What happens to those churches? Believe it or not, many become car lots or strip malls.

“I would say that probably happens 50 percent of the time,” said Peshkov.

But she believes it doesn't have to happen with Temple's First Presbyterian with a building that dates back to the 1920s.

More and more people have begun to look at the buildings for their uniqueness and find new ways to preserve them.

“I've seen users come in and build lofts in the U.K. and similarly becoming popular in the United States, people are turning them into a residence,” said Peshkov.

And that gives Mande Driggers hope… hope a buyer who cares about the atmosphere of Temple will find a use that will benefit lots of people.

“Maintaining the character of Temple is really important. Temple is a growing community and I think having cool, unique buildings in downtown will draw more people to the area,” Driggers said.

Members of First Presbyterian Church said they'd like to see another church buy the property and serve the surrounding neighborhood, but at this point, the property will go to the highest bidder.

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