PORT DEPOSIT — Tome Memorial United Methodist Church is now the property of Community Connecting Us.

Last week the Peninsula Delaware Conference of the United Methodist Church released the stately church at 100 North Main St., Nesbitt Hall, which sits across the street, and the former parsonage next door to Nesbitt Hall.

Erica Berge, executive director of the asset based community development non profit, said the goal is to transform the church into a cultural and wellness center, while maintaining its sanctity as a consecrated structure with deep ties to the community.

“People were baptized here, got married here, had funerals here,” Berge said. Since the conference closed the church in 2018 Berge said she has felt an allegiance of sorts to those who still called Tome UMC their spiritual home. Regardless of its function for Community Connecting Us and all its partners, she said she will make the sanctuary available to those that want to worship or hold life cycle events.

“We want it to remain a sacred space,” she said.

Right now Berge is overwhelmed by the enormity of making these 130-plus year old buildings meet 2021 code for plumbing, electricity and heating, not to mention accessibility.

“Our hope is to get these two behemoth HVAC units out of the basement and get outside units,” she said. Removal of these will give more floor space for members of the community to come along CCU and offer such things as yoga classes, exercise, karate or other programs.

Before the buildings were signed over to the non-profit, Berge had two contractors come out and look at what it would cost to get all three modernized.

“It was a very hefty amount,” she said. “Half a mill.”

That $500,000 price tag had an effect on the UMC conference too.

“When they saw the estimates that’s when they decided to gift it to us,” Berge said.

“When they said, “This is yours” I thought, “This just got real,” she said. “But it’s been real.”

Berge and her family plus a small group of supporters have been running the non-profit. Now that CCU owns the three buildings it’s time to expand membership too.

“It’s going to take more than my family of 12 and five committed neighbors,” Berge said.

She envisions a near future where the churches still in Port Deposit and other organizations such as the local health care industry fill in a spot on the calendar to offer classes in crafting, life skills, educational elements, and more.

Look for classes in the ground floor and performances in the sanctuary.

“These buildings were built for the community,” Berge said, adding it’s not out of the realm of possibilities to hold a wedding in the sanctuary and then hold the reception in what was called the summer church.

“You should not have to be wealthy to have a beautiful wedding,” she said.

Community Connecting Us has already established relationships with Port Deposit officials and Cecil County Public Library. With the closure of the library in Port Deposit, it has moved its operations to Nesbitt Hall.

Anyone who would like to volunteer, including offering services to help update the buildings, contact Berge at communityconnecting.us

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