Jun 10, 2021 | By John W. Coleman

After long waits, two churches just 13 miles apart—The Garden Church in Lansdowne and El Buen Samaritano UMC in Gradyville—will hold special services to dedicate their new homes this Sunday, June 13. And they will look forward to using their new places of worship and ministry to attract new people. 

The Garden Church, new facilities

The Garden Church, formerly (and formally) known as Trinity-Lansdowne UMC, will dedicate its new facilities at 82 N Lansdowne Ave, in Lansdowne, on Sunday at 2 PM both onsite and online. 

The small congregation, after seeing its former, towering historic edifice razed in 2018, began a $12 million reconstruction project in 2019 but had to wait an extra year for its completion, due to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.  Now it will occupy a small section of a large residential facility that offers affordably priced apartments for seniors. The church will share space with the new Simpson Gardens II, built and managed by its partner Simpson Senior Services.

Sunday’s brief, historic Ribbon Cutting and Consecration Service will celebrate both Simpson Gardens II and The Garden Church. Bishop Peggy Johnson will preside over the dedication. 

El Buen Samaritan UMC (formely Gradyville UMC)

El Buen Samaritano UMC (Iglesia Metodista Unida, has worshiped at the United Methodist Church of West Chester since it was born on June 14, 2009. Now members will occupy the former Gradyville UMC, at 1222 PA 352, Gradyville, as their new church home and dedicate it on Sunday at 6 PM. The former, 160-year old church closed in 2021 and was discontinued by the Eastern PA Annual Conference in May.

El Buen Samaritano’s small but vibrant congregation is a bilingual, Spanish-English ministry with members representing diverse backgrounds, including many Latin American countries. They will also welcome Bishop Peggy Johnson to preside over their building dedication.

“For 22 years the UMC of West Chester has hosted our ministry,” said the Rev. Evodia Villalva, longtime pastor. “We give praise and thanks to God for our sister church for their incredible support. El Buen Samaritano now prepares for a new stage in its life as we place our trust in God for our ministry to continue flourishing in Delaware County.”

Rev. Shayla Johnson

The Garden Church’s new pastor, since July 2020, is the Rev. Shayla Johnson. She will finally be able to worship with her congregation in person on Sunday, July 4, as the pandemic wanes and more churches reopen. The Rev. Evelyn Kent Clark, her predecessor and now superintendent of the South District, shepherded the church’s long journey to this long-awaited moment during her nine years there.

That journey included countless meetings and challenging negotiations with church and community leaders. It also involved working closely with their reputable partner Simpson Senior Services, which is affiliated with the Eastern PA Conference and has several, popular residences for seniors in the region. Simpson Gardens I was built on the church’s property 14 years ago, and purportedly continues to be a stable and safe residential community. 

Now the church has a 1,200 square-foot worship space and church offices built into the new residential facility. Several legacy items from its former building, such as a precious stained-glass window, are incorporated into the new space.  

The public-private collaboration that funded the innovative project also includes the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency and state, county and Lansdowne governments. Funding was provided by $1 million in Delaware County HOME Funds and more than $10 million in Low Income Housing Tax Credit funding.