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Once a staple of Berclair, church readies to move from Summer Avenue

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A piece of Summer Avenue will soon vanish as the Grimes Memorial United Methodist Church has sold the property and is merging with another church.

Residents in the Berclair area said they hate to see another staple go.

"They are moving all the good stuff out of the neighborhood and moving it somewhere else," L.C. Cole, a Summer Avenue resident, said.

As signs of homelessness continue to move in, it seems the places of hope are slowly being pushed out.

"That's what sort of hurts the neighborhood," Cole said.

The church has been spreading a message of love and redemption since the 1940s, but a shrinking congregation is forcing the church to downsize and stop preaching the gospel from the landmark location.

Locals said though the church has always been a beacon of light, in recent years, it’s been a magnet for people just looking to rest their heads at night.

"We need to leave more churches inside of this community right here," resident Willie Lane said.

Lane said he understands negativity is getting out of hand on Summer Avenue, but he said it's impossible to combat that trend while closing the glimmers of positivity that line the corridor, like a Payless directly across from the church.

"I could understand Payless moving, but why are they moving the church out the neighborhood?" Lane said.

The Payless is one of many stores that are closing. Summer Avenue used to be home to the first McDonald's in the city, but now even that's gone

With more empty spaces popping up along the once-colorful corridor, some wonder what's the plan to restore the life and vibrance and drive out crime and poverty.

A developer named Marty Mathews purchased the church in 2017. There's no word on what's next for the building.

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