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
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
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
“That was a big blow,” said
Moore. “It was just one thing after another. We have been praying about what to
Pilot Mountain Baptist Association’s Associational Missionary Jim Pollard helped them with the
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.”
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
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,”