Sierra Presbyterian Church in Merced in danger of closing

MERCED, Calif. Roberta Romero's life has changed dramatically in the past two years. She went from living in a creekside homeless encampment and being diagnosed with cancer to living in her own apartment and being in remission. Romero says it's all because of the help she received through Sierra Presbyterian Church.

Romero said, "It's a great program for people. If you really want to do something with your life, if you really want to try. They'll help you do that."

This church has offered a variety of programs to help the homeless over the past several years. It opened up as an overnight shelter in 2008 when construction on the county's new shelter was delayed. And since then the church has been housing and helping the medically needy homeless, like Amber Morris who has type one diabetes.

Morris said, "Because of them now I have a part time job and go to college, and they help me with transportation. I have a two bedroom house for me and my three kids."

But now a special commission of the church's governing body is recommending the small sanctuary be shut down July first. Members of the commission could not be reached for comment, but a letter written by the group says Sierra Presbyterian owes the governing body more than $30 thousand and that its leaders have failed to inspire membership growth.

Sierra Presbyterian Church Member, Adam Gray said, "We can't start evaluating churches like stocks. It's not about growth and rate of return."

Church leaders admit their work to help the homeless has kept some people from joining the congregation. But they believe success stories like Roberta and Amber should be reason enough to stay open.

Candice Adam-Medefind said, "They may think this property is not well used or may be after it because they think we don't have a large enough congregation. But we maintain it's been the best used church property in town."

The recommendation to shut down Sierra Presbyterian will be presented during a meeting in Turlock on May 15th.

Sierra Presbyterian Church
3603 M street
Merced, CA 95348-2807
(209) 383-6662
or (209) 723-1872

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