Geraldine Sands has deep, fond memories of Greater Macedonia AME Church at 48 Alexander St.
She joined the church 50 years ago because of a soloist’s angelic voice and since has attended faithfully with her mother.
But Sands believes it's time to move on, partly because of challenges with parking and finding space for related events.
"For 20 years, we’ve talked about building a new sanctuary," Sands said. “The members are all ready to move. I think it’s a good thing.”
The Greater Macedonia Church building could be demolished. Even though church leaders want to sell the site, the Charleston Board of Architectural Review deferred the decision on Thursday to tear down Macedonia's downtown facility after several members said they were uninformed that their church could be destroyed.
But while the church could be torn down, the congregation intends to sell the property so they can complete their new, larger facility in West Ashley where they will have more space for ministry.
Macedonia, like other downtown churches shutting their doors on the peninsula, is moving mainly because of limited parking space.
The church doesn't own any parking lots near the Alexander Street building. They're sandwiched between private- and city-owned lots that boast 50 spaces for the church building that can seat 200.
While parishioners can use the spaces on Sundays, this poses a problem for activities during the week.
Guests leaving Bible studies and church meetings in the past have found parking tickets on their windshields. If the nearby Charleston Gaillard Center is having an event, the members can't use the adjacent city lots at all.
This forced the church to start using the Adams Building-Reid House, owned by the AME Church, on St. Phillip Street for church meetings and other functions.
The new West Ashley location, which sits on six acres at 725 Savage Road, will boast almost 150 parking spaces on just half of the property.
The church will have room to add more should they develop the other half.
In addition, most of the membership no longer lives on the peninsula, says the church's pastor the Rev. Dr. Lawrence Gordon.
The current edifice was built in 1965 to mainly serve the adjacent Ansonborough Homes and the surrounding black neighborhoods.
After Hurricane Hugo hit in 1989, the homes where most of the parishioners lived were declared toxic and demolished. Many black parishioners moved away and Macedonia's membership declined.
Today, surrounding neighborhoods are increasingly white.
Most of Macedonia's members commute from North Charleston, Summerville, Johns Island and other municipalities.
"The congregation will not survive very long if we stay down there," Gordon said.
The new campus will have more room for church functions. It doubles the size of the downtown edifice with the sanctuary alone being able to seat over 600. The building has more than eight entrances with around 10 rooms.
While Macedonia has around 45 youth, their youth ministries are largely stagnant and the church doesn't have space to host youth programs.
At the West Ashley campus, which includes a fellowship hall, Gordon wants to host youth dances, alternative worship experiences, Saturday church schools, youth summits, outdoor picnics, an alternative event to trick-or-treating on Halloween and other social events.
It will also feature a nursery and maybe a daycare someday, Gordon says.
He expects the youth membership to triple in West Ashley.
"My target is going to be young adults and youth," Gordon said. "That's the future.
But some members don't want to see their old building torn down as they prepare to move to a new church. Longtime Macedonia member Gail Lincoln said the church building is a landmark.
"Seeing that building means a lot to me," Lincoln said.
Macedonia would not be the first church building to be demolished on the peninsula.
Plymouth United Church of Christ was torn down in 2015.
Other congregations that have decided to worship elsewhere include Shiloh AME on Smith Street, Mount Caramel AME on Rutledge and the old Zion-Olivet Presbyterian Church at the end of Cannon Street.