Wake County

Some Raleigh churches have to get creative to address Sunday morning parking woes

Jesus said wherever two or more are gathered in his name, he is also there.

But he didn't say anything about where they should park.

Churches and places of worship in Raleigh's urban neighborhoods and growing downtown have tried a variety of ways to meet their congregation parking needs.

Hayes Barton Baptist Church, in historic Five Points, felt the fury of its neighbors when church leaders announced their intentions to tear down six homes they owned to add parking spaces and a new access point to the church. It sparked the creation of Save Six, a neighborhood group dedicated to preserving the homes, all within the Bloomsbury Historic District.

Church leaders have continued to meet with community members and neighbors, but a resolution that satisfies both groups hasn't been reached yet, said Hayes Barton pastor David Hailey.

"We feel positive about the conversations we have been having and hopeful they will continue until some sort of common agreement can be reached with our neighborhood," he said.

Multiple services

A handful of Hayes Barton's church neighbors have taken different approaches to try and meet their parking demands.

"I'm just glad I am not them," said Kevin Martin, pastor of Our Savior Lutheran Church.

The church, less than a 10 minute walk from Hayes Barton, has about 450 members with an average Sunday attendance of 200 people spread over two different services. The church parking lot holds less than 50 vehicles.

"We could probably, with our lot and on-street parking, get most people in, but it's pretty tight," Martin said.

Our Savior has an informal agreement with the businesses across West Aycock Street to use their parking lot on Sunday. Their customers can, in turn, use the church's lot during the week.

"We have had a very nice neighborly agreement, and the timing works out great for both of us so that's what we do for our parking," he said. "Because we kind of have the same problem as Hayes Barton to be perfectly serious."

Our Savior has two Sunday church services, and Martin said if the church got into a parking pinch it could add a third service on Saturday.

Hailey, who has led Hayes Barton since 1996, said during an earlier neighborhood meeting that the church has considered multiple services but worried it could divide the membership. The church normally has 500 to 600 people attending its 11 a.m. Sunday service.

Garages nearby

First Baptist Church on Wilmington Street in downtown Raleigh has two church services. Congregants don't typically have a problem finding parking, said office manager Diane Hill. There tends to be more competition for parking for later Sunday morning service, at 11 a.m., but there are nearby parking garages that members of the church can use.

"I've heard about the Hayes Barton issue ... and thank goodness we don't have that issue," Hill said.

It's the same for Edenton Street United Methodist Church, a fellow downtown church. It has multiple services on Sunday mornings, and visitors are able to use the parking spaces in lots behind the church and across the street, as well as those in nearby garages or on adjacent streets.

"At our location, we are very blessed to have ample parking," said the church's facilities coordinator, Carlton Pulley.

First Baptist Church on Salisbury Street, also located in downtown Raleigh, only has one Sunday service and says it averages anywhere from 300 to 500 members.

"In any downtown or congested area, parking is a huge challenge, and where we are historically has presented a challenge," said pastor Chris Chapman.

Three of the homes behind Hayes Barton Baptist Church will be demolished and three saved to use as affordable housing. Martha Quillin mquillin@newsobserver.com

With the addition of more parking decks, weekends and evenings have become easier for members to find parking. But finding a spot can still be a challenge during the week for the church's two preschools, other community events and if there is a funeral.

"I think we have cooperated the best we can. It's just during the week it's a challenge," Chapman said. "I say that calmly, but it's really frustrating at times. But, all in all, we make it work. And all the players downtown are constantly looking for space."

Shuttle pickup

White Memorial Presbyterian is less than a mile from Hayes Barton. It offers two shuttles from a remote parking lot, while also using a shuttle to pick up residents from a nearby retirement community. It also has four different services on Sunday.

"It is still tight, and we fill up the lot every Sunday morning, but the staggering of the services help," said Gary Fulton, the church's associate pastor for administration and outreach. "We try to be a good neighbors."

White Memorial tries to put out cones to prevent people from blocking driveways of nearby homes. It also offers cones to residents to block off their homes as "no parking" spots.

Hayes Barton United Methodist Church also tries to take special care of the neighbors and homes who live near the church, said Tom Blalock, chairman of the church's transportation committee. People can park in the church's parking lots and on the street, but "sometimes they're not very mindful of people with driveways."

He's been pushing his congregation to use church-owned buses to free up parking at the church, which is less than a mile from Hayes Barton Baptist.

Blalock said his church is open to working with Hayes Barton Baptist and White Memorial to see whether they can band together to meet their parking and space needs.

Anna Johnson; 919-829-4807; @anna_m_johnson

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