Saying good-bye to church hard
    March 22 2010 by Dianna L. Cagle, BR Assistant Managing Editor

    Heart-wrenching. Tortuous. Painful.

    There are probably more adjectives to describe Pat Moore’s grief over the loss of her church in Winston-Salem, but she is definitely still struggling with the loss of the only church she’s ever known.

    “I’ve gone there all my life and it’s been very hurtful,” said Moore of Temple Baptist Church. “We had no other choice.”

    BR photo by Dianna L. Cagle

    Church members have to consider what to do with property and other assets during dissolution process.

    The church closed its doors at the beginning of December. They were down to three members and had been renting a building.

    “Most of our members have passed on,” said Moore, who had been the church’s clerk and pianist.

    Moore’s grandmother was a charter member. Her mother was also a member and had been carrying Moore to church since she was three weeks old.

    “It’s been sad,” she said. “It’s been very hard for me to take.”

    The pastor, Robert Blackburn, 85, lost his wife last summer, and was himself hospitalized in late December.

    Moore said several members had died in the last couple of years leaving them with Blackburn, Moore and her husband. She had played with the organist at the church a long time. She passed away too.

    “That was a big blow,” said Moore. “It was just one thing after another. We have been praying about what to do.”

    Pilot Mountain Baptist Association’s Associational Missionary Jim Pollard helped them with the dissolution process. 

    Pollard preached a message in early November from Ecclesiastes about “a time and a season,” said Moore.

    She distinctly remembers him saying, “Maybe this church has done all it came here to do.”

    Moore said they mailed a letter to everyone currently on the role in November for a meeting at the end of the month to voice opinions.

    “No one showed up except the ones who had been coming,” Moore said.

    The church donated items to a local mission and is finalizing all the bills. Everything left will be going to Pilot Mountain Baptist Association.

    “The only reason they hung on this long” was Moore, Pollard said. “She just didn’t want to see it die. With tears in their eyes as we talked about it, I said let’s celebrate the victories. Let’s talk about the history and rejoice in those things.”

    Pollard, who has been associational missionary for three years, said he’s seen church closures several times and believes it will happen again soon.

    “There are a number of churches that are facing this reality,” he said. “If the ’60s ever comes back I’ve got some churches that are ready.”

    BR photo by Dianna L. Cagle

    Some churches sell buildings and rent space putting off an inevitable future closing. Others choose to merge with a church plant in hopes of survival.

    There are several causes of church closures. Sometimes it might be as simple as an event like a leaky roof or a busted heating unit.

    “They don’t have money to fix it,” Pollard said, “and they don’t know what to do. Something that will cost thousands of dollars to fix will force a church to close.”

    Another reason is having a very small number of members. Pollard said that Temple waited until they were down to three active members before seeking help. Pollard chose the Sunday he preached to share about the “time and great purpose for your church for many years” and urged them to “decide whether they want to leave a legacy” and “try to find a way to end gracefully.”

    Pollard encourages churches to include a dissolution clause in their articles and bylaws to help in case it ever happens. If the church is incorporated, any assets must be given to non-profit organizations. Some choose to donate directly to the organization like the Baptist Children’s Home of North Carolina, the Biblical Recorder or another church. Others leave endowments, which can be managed by the North Carolina Baptist Foundation.

    Pollard said he is working with Forest Hill Baptist Church in Winston-Salem to either move toward closing or form a partnership with a group planting a church in the area. Forest Hill has less than 30 active members.

    “I’m trying to help them find a way to gradually ease into this,” Pollard said.

    The new church is contemporary and aimed at people in their 20s and 30s. “As they begin to grow and the other church continues to decline, they will have someone to hand the baton to,” he said.

    Westview Baptist Church dissolved last year, Pollard said. The members gave the building to a non-profit senior citizens group and divided the leftover cash among several organizations.

    Westview was experiencing low numbers, and the members realized they couldn’t take care of the building.

    “Some churches refuse to open doors to community,” he said. “A lot of it depends on the attitude of people there. People get more nervous and get less willing in dealing with people who aren’t like them. We have other (churches) as well that in the next five years they won’t be here.”

    When churches try to stay in the community and reach the changing population, Pollard calls that the exception and not the rule.

    “It’s very difficult for them,” he said. “Sometimes churches give the keys (to him) and say do something with this. We’ll go in and start a different kind of church. They could have done this all along but they just refused.”

    Pollard said Pilot Mountain has started five churches since he’s been associational missionary. One church started another campus. Two predominately white churches should be starting up soon and a group from Florida is planting a church. Another group from South Carolina is partnering with Forest Hills. They will be arriving in May.

    “It should be an exciting thing to see,” Pollard said. He said this trend is seen more in the city.

    “Where cities have changed and populations have changed I think we’re going to see an awful lot of this,” he said.

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    3/22/2010 8:13:00 AM by Dianna L. Cagle, BR Assistant Managing Editor | with 0 comments

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