Latvian church may become housing

May 25, 2012
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(Gazette Photo by John Ruch) The Latvian Lutheran Church at 100 Rockview St.

CENTRAL JP—The Jamaica Plain Latvian Lutheran Church is moving and its historic Rockview Street building may be sold to a housing developer, according to Rev. J. John Keggi, the congregation’s pastor.

“Money is what it comes down to,” said Keggi, who heads a congregation that now numbers only about a dozen people.

Keggi said a sales deal for the church is in place, but not yet finalized while the developer figures out whether to rehab or demolish the small white structure, which is at least 85 years old. Keggi said he does not know the developer’s name. The property’s real estate agent, Charlene Lyons of Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage, did not return a Gazette phone call.

The 100 Rockview St. church sits on a 6,500-square-foot lot that is zoned for three-unit housing, according to City records.

The congregation plans to move into rented church space elsewhere, most likely outside JP, Keggi said. That move is slated for September.

The church is a “historical institution in Jamaica Plain,” said Keggi. JP and Roxbury were longtime centers of immigration from the Northern European country of Latvia, and the church sprang up to serve that population. Keggi said the Latvian Lutherans bought the church building in 1928 from a German church.

There is another Latvian Lutheran church in Brookline that is larger and more prominent. It formed 60 years ago when a new wave of immigrants with different cultural views arrived and did not fit in with the JP church community, Keggi said.

“There used to be an uneasy relationship [between the two churches], but there no longer is,” he said. However, a merger of the two congregations, while it would “make a lot of sense,” is not in the cards, he said.

The JP church now has a small and aging congregation headed by Keggi, who is 79. It is tight-knit, with members eating lunch and drinking wine together in the building after the Sunday service.

“Ours is a small family, basically,” Keggi said. “It’s just full of mutual liking and loving and caring.”

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