Facing sweeping change, the Federated Church of Martha’s Vineyard is preparing to put its 200-year-old Edgartown parsonage on the market, while simultaneously losing the settled minister who has led the church for not quite a year.
The plan to sell the Mayhew Parsonage follows a court decision handed down in February allowing the church to dispose of the property.
“That thing has been a thorn for the longest time,” church moderator Walter Vail told the Gazette this week. “It was a great gift by Sarah Mayhew, but it’s an asset that requires a lot of work and a lot of money.”
With an assessed value of $12 million, the harborfront parsonage at 75 South Water street stands on the site of the original home of Thomas Mayhew, who founded the Federated Church in 1642 and was its first minister. Ms. Mayhew, his descendant, willed it to the church in 1956 with restrictions that were removed by February’s court ruling.
“I’d rather have another parsonage someplace in Edgartown,” said Mr. Vail, who served on a church subcommittee that has unanimously recommended selling the property. The church is holding a special meeting of all its members Nov. 1 to discuss and vote on the proposal.
The parsonage most recently has been occupied by Richard DenUyl, who became the church’s settled minister in November 2019.
But by the time church members meet to vote Nov. 1, Mr. DenUyl will have moved out. His final sermon will be posted on the Federated website that morning.
“I continue to believe that I was the right candidate to be the settled pastor,” Mr. DenUyl told the Gazette this week. “Unfortunately, when Covid-19 hit and the real estate prices shot up, this process took on a life of its own.”
Mr. DenUyl said he and his wife, a pediatrician, loved living in the parsonage and are “heartbroken” to leave the Vineyard, but will continue to visit in summers in their sailboat.
Mr. Vail expressed regret at Mr. DenUyl’s departure.
“I have not heard anybody recently in that church who is as good in the pulpit as he is, and I hope he can continue to do it wherever it is,” Mr. Vail said.
Former interim pastor Charlotte Wright will return to the church Nov. 8 and is currently working with Mr. DenUyl on the transition, he and Mr. Vail said.
The church membership meeting takes place Nov. 1 at noon at the Trinity Park Tabernacle in Oak Bluffs.