Switching flocks

CUMBERLAND — The man who guided St. John United Church of Christ in Cumberland through tumultuous times involving decisions about the future of the historic church is resigning effective Nov. 15.

The Rev. Jimmy Watson recently accepted a new position at Immanuel United Church of Christ in Ferguson, Missouri. Church officials have selected the Rev. John Krueger, a retired Greenfield conference minister, to take over for Watson in the interim.

Watson, 55, has been at the St. John United Church of Christ, 11000 E. Washington St., on an interim basis for 21 months. He has represented church leaders during the recent debate over the future of the 101-year-old historic structure, which church members say is deteriorating and should be demolished and which Cumberland officials say should be preserved.

The destruction of the old church has been the center of controversy in Cumberland since church officials struck a deal with a Pittsburgh-based developer to raze the structure and build a gas station. It was a decision town officials adamantly opposed, saying the building should remain standing as a major gateway to the town.

The deal fell through amid the controversy, and church members — who have since vacated the building and moved to a temporary facility — continue to search for a buyer for the land.

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Kristy Deer is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. She can be reached at 317-477-3262 or kdeer@greenfieldreporter.com.