>Western Tribune column 11-18-09 Churches closing

>This column appeared in the Western Tribune on November 18, 2009.

Churches have themselves to blame

The closing of First United Methodist Church should come as no surprise since we live in a city whose traditional major denomination churches have been abandoning their historical buildings for years.

First Baptist Church and First Presbyterian Church downtown and South Highland Baptist Church on Southside are examples of churches that have moved or announced plans to move. It was inevitable that the Methodist Church would do the same.

These churches closed their doors because of dwindling attendance. The large buildings are expensive to maintain, and without the financial support from a giving congregation, keeping the doors open becomes impossible.

Older people recall the days when the churches were filled with worshipers each Sunday with children squirming in the pews and fried chicken and pecan pies served afterward. Their children grew up and fell in love and got married in the church and all was good.

However, the children who had only recently filled the Sunday school rooms moved away, leaving only their aging parents to continue supporting the church.

One of the leaders of South Highland Baptist Church told me that the community had ceased to support the church and the people in the community no longer did anything for the church.

My belief is that a church’s mission might be to serve the community, not the other way around, and that somehow the people of South Highland Baptist, as well as the other churches, had missed the boat.

All of this could have been avoided, had the churches taken the opportunity during the 1960’s to erase the segregation in the pews that was, and still is, so common. Of course, many in the churches felt that desegregation was being forced upon them in their schools and neighborhoods, so they held on to the only bit of segregation that was out of the reach of the government, making no effort to bring worshippers of different races together.

Had the churches in the 1960’s and 1970’s followed the lead of the government, and the teachings of Jesus, their local leaders would have reached out to the communities around them and made a concerted and purposeful effort to integrate their pews.

Instead, they moved to areas where their neighbors are more like them and the children are less needy.

As my momma used to say, “You made your bed, now lie in it.”

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