It’s finally happening. A church I have been following for many months has completed its closure process. This was a congregation that had three difficult decisions to make: should they sell their parsonage? Should they dissolve their congregation? And should they demolish their building? The answer to all three was ultimately: Yes. But it took a lot of soul-searching over several years, and the compassionate accompaniment of a loving pastor to help them discern God’s path.
What impressed me about this congregation and its pastor was their determination to take responsibility for their ministry and property. Their building was in tough shape, and they knew it was not really worth saving. Although it was full of happy memories, letting it stand idle would be an eyesore in their community and a burden on their Conference. They pursued a new church development that might buy it as a “fixer upper”, but that didn’t pan out. They sought interested buyers who might move the building to another location, but none materialized. They finally decided to sell the parsonage and use some of the proceeds to demolish the building.
“It’s our church, we’re the ones responsible for it,” the pastor told me. “It’s our responsibility to take it down.”
The demolition is scheduled for this week-end.
Once it’s demolished, they have found a local farmer who agreed to dig a hole on his property where the rubble can be buried. I guess you could say they will give the church a decent burial.
When Christians bury the dead, we confess that we believe in eternal life. The pastor of this church said to me in an interview months ago:
“Eternal life is an unproven reality. With churches, its more concrete. You can see what happens afterward, in real time. You can see ministries that might continue. You can see members that move on and do other things.”
So, a building will be buried. But the ministry goes on. Partly because “members move on and do other things”, but also because God keeps doing a new thing!
God cannot be buried. They tried that once and it didn’t work.