What’s Going on With Trinity UMC?

Many of you know that Trinity UMC closed its doors as a congregation last year. After many attempts at making it a viable community of faith and after much prayer and discernment over many years, the church was officially closed. A team of people – both lay and clergy – were formed to discuss what would be the best use of the property where Trinity UMC met. With months of discussions and discernment, the recommendation of the team was to “sell the air” and retain a presence for the church. What type of ministry will inhabit this new space is still to be determined, but this is what the team came up with so far:

The front of the now condemned portion of Trinity UMC in Berkeley

Missional Use Recommendation for Trinity United Methodist Church in Berkeley, CA

To:        The Cal-Nev Board of Trustees, Cal-Nev Board of Pensions, Committee on New and Vital   Churches, Berkeley Circuit Churches, and The Bay District Union/Church Location and Building Committee

From:  The Trinity Development Connectional Team

Date:  October 1, 2021

By April 2020 after much work with the leadership of Trinity United Methodist Church it became clear to the Cabinet that this church had reached a point of needing to be closed.  Extremely serious exigent circumstances required the Cabinet to take immediate action. The closure was confirmed by the vote of the Annual Conference in September 2020.

Even before the closure and through continued study and reflection that included the input and insights of the appointed pastors of this church, the Cabinet was convinced that a new expression of Trinity UMC needed to be considered rather than simply moving forward to sell the property.  They were also committed to working connectionally with all agencies who have responsibility for or are affected by decisions related to the Berkeley Trinity property.  Thus, this connectional team intentionally includes a representative from all stakeholders across our Conference structure. The membership includes:

  • Bishop Minerva Carcaño, Resident Bishop San Francisco Area of the United Methodist Church
  • Rev. Staci Current, District Superintendent of the Bay District
  • Diane Knudsen, Executive Director of Finance and Administration for the California Nevada Annual Conference
  • Paul Extrum-Fernandez, Executive Director of the Board of Pensions, California Nevada Annual Conference
  • Rev. Dr. Craig Brown, Executive Director for Congregational Development, California Nevada Annual Conference
  • Rev. John Current, Representative of Bay District Church Location and Building Team
  • Dr. Dianne Rush Woods, Representative from Epworth United Methodist Church (began serving 7/2020)
  • Rev. Craig Yoshihara, Pastor of Berkeley Methodist United Church (began serving 7/2020)
  • Rev. Gyu Hyun Kim, Pastor of Berkeley Korean United Methodist Church (began serving 7/2020)
  • Rev. Pam Kurtz, Chair of the Bay District Union began serving (7/2020)
  • Rev. William Chou, Vice-Chair of the Bay District Union (began serving 7/2020)
  • Harold Caudle, Chair of the Conference Board of Trustees
  • Rev. Rochelle Frazier, Member of the Bay District Union (served on the committee until 6/2021)
  • Rev. Dr.  Kristin Stoneking, Pastor of Epworth United Methodist Church

The members of this task force meet monthly to prayerfully consider and discern how the Holy Spirit might be leading us to use this resource for the highest and best use for expanding the reign of God. Initially the work of the task force was to release the church from its agreement with CB Ellis.  The owner representative hired by the former Trinity UMC billed the church $1,000,000 for work that had not been completed but was his fee had the project gone forth. After many months of tense negotiations, it was settled that the representative be paid $211,000.00 and released from any further work on behalf of the church, Annual Conference, or Development Task Force.

The current status of the building is troubling.  Most of the structures have not been cared for decades and there is significant deferred maintenance.  The sanctuary was closed off and has not been used since 1980.  There is significant water damage in the sanctuary, and it is believed that there are concerns around the sanctuary being seismically sound which motivated the move to close the sanctuary. The chapel as well as the education building have extensive plumbing and roof problems. In addition, there is a live-in custodian on the property (he has lived there for almost 20 years) who presents multiple potential legal challenges. Further, his pets continue to cause flea infestations of the entire education building.   There is a myriad of other issues with the building that need to be addressed to bring the building up to a place where it is safe and usable for ministry.   Through our research, discussion, and analysis the Development Task Force was in agreement about using the following principles to guide our work:

  • This endeavor must be led by the Holy Spirit and bathed in prayer. 
  • We will work in partnership with the Board of Pensions and surrounding United Methodist Churches to create an environment that is mutually beneficial and serves the mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world, specifically, Berkeley, California.
  • What we plan should be a financially sustainable model for the long term.

In December 2020, the Task Force enlisted DCG Strategies, a full spectrum development corporation with expertise with communities of faith, to provide an analysis of the value and potential of the property.  DCG provided the taskforce with a comprehensive report that addressed the current value of the property as is, as well as the potential value of the property if we should develop the property to include space for the church and ministries along with housing.  It should also be noted that DCG agreed to do property management for the Trinity property beginning in December of 2019 when it became clear that the existing congregation could no longer carry out that duty. 

As a result of the report prepared by DCG Strategies, the task force considered several possibilities.  They are fleshed out below. 

  • “Do nothing” was not a viable option because of the disrepair of the current building and safety concerns.
    • Status quo is not acceptable.  The building needs significant repair and we must do something.
  • Selling the property outright and no longer having a presence so close to UC Berkeley.
    • According to Forbes Magazine and US News and World Report, UC Berkeley is now the number one university in the country.  We do not want to withdraw from ministry in the location where we have been for over one hundred years. We want a United Methodist presence at this location and do not want to sell the property outright and withdraw from this mission field.  The opportunity for the United Methodist Church to have a presence to influence, impact, and nurture the next generation of leaders matriculating through UC Berkeley is too important to give up.  We want to have meaningful and significant ministry at the site. 
  • Repair the existing property and use it as the building are.
    • As we studied this option, we found the building needs extensive repair that would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.  There is extensive work that needs to be done in the sanctuary, chapel, and education building.  The scope and cost of that work is unknown until we begin the actual work.  To have an extensive quote of the work would cost upwards of $100,000 just to diagnosis the work that needs to be done. DCG Strategies speculated that the work would easily be millions of dollars.  Even if we completed these repairs, the property would still not be conducive for ministry in a relevant, modern way. In order to truly reach the UC Berkeley community having a modern, updated property is essential.
  • Repair the property and consider for an adaptive reuse.
    • In considering this option, it was brought to our attention that the current use of the building is already an adaptive reuse of sorts.  The sanctuary basement houses the Berkeley Free Clinic and The East Bay Sanctuary Covenant are housed in the basement of the Education Building.  These are both adaptive reuse of what formerly was worship and Christian Education spaces.  Considering an adaptive reuse such as housing or commercial space would involve either self-financing or finding a partner that is interested in re-using the existing structures.  Self-financing a complete re-model for an adaptive reuse would exceed the amount of funding we have available.  We have been advised that finding a developer to partner with us in this option would be very difficult because a developer would want to have the opportunity to make as much profit as possible.  Using the existing structures and footprints drastically limits this possibility.  Therefore, making it an unattractive proposal for most developers.  The Taskforce does recognize that this option may need to be revisited if for some reason the historical landmark status precludes us from moving forward with the preferred option.
  • Redeveloping the property with a developer partner and maintain ample space for worship, ministry, space for tenants (East Bay Sanctuary Covenant and Berkeley Free Clinic) who we would like to continue to be in partnership with, flexible space to be used by Circuit Churches, and possible commercial and/or social enterprise space.
    • This option would allow the Annual Conference to maintain ownership of the property while “selling the air rights” to a developer to building housing.  Once the entitlement process begins, we will have a clearer idea of what sort of housing the city of Berkeley will allow.  It will likely be student housing or a mixed income housing with a portion reserved for low income units.  This option would yield a profit of $40-$50 million dollars for the Annual Conference and be able to financially sustain the property and ministry well for generations to come. 


  1. That the United Methodist Church maintain the location at Trinity United Methodist Church to influence the next generation of leaders being educated at UC Berkeley.
  2. That the Trinity United Methodist Church property be redeveloped in partnership with a developer where we would maintain ownership of the property through “selling the air.’  This would allow the ample space to be used for worship space, rental space for our partners in outreach to the Berkeley Community (East Bay Sanctuary Covenant and Berkeley Free Clinic,) as well as commercial income generating space.
  3. DCG Strategies be engaged to continue working with us in this process as our broker to lead the process of finding a developer and represent our interests in the entitlement and building process.
  4. The Annual Conference finance the entitlement process so that we retain maximum value when working with a developer.
  5. This report be shared with all the bodies who have an interest in the development of this ministry strategy which include The Cabinet, The Conference Board of Trustees, The Board of Pensions, and the Bay District Union and Church Location and Building.  This report would also be shared with the churches in the Berkeley circuit as we work collaboratively in realizing this vision.