They knew already, though, that the damage was likely too severe. The church was bleeding money, and something would have to happen soon. Unless there was a miracle, the church would close its doors.
“We knew it was coming,” Martin said. “We kept putting it off and putting it off.”
Then, one day, the board met and voted to officially shut the church down. There was no other choice, he said. They couldn’t afford to keep it open any longer.
Martin said he hopes the region's struggling churches never have to make the decision he did. It was indescribably difficult to cast that vote to disband his congregation.
He was baptized at Windfall Church of the Brethren when he was 10 years old. His parents went there. His children grew up there.
“It was rough,” he said. “When you go to one place all your life, and you see it closed… It’s a shame. That’s just the way it is.”
Martin said he went to two or three churches before finally finding a new spiritual home.
Arley Mitcham, the church’s pastor when it closed, said there are a lot of little, country churches in the area, and they’re all in trouble.
He said it’s hard to get people to travel to rural areas for services. The “old faithful” are the only ones who show up anymore, he said.
Martin didn’t disagree.
“It’s a shame that all the little churches are suffering,” he said. “They don’t have a chance anymore.”
RISE OF THE NONES
Judging by the experience of local real estate agents, things aren’t that bad yet. While they’ve seen decline in the area, they’ve also seen growth.
Paul Wyman and Kevin Hardie each estimated they’ve handled about 10 church sales in the last decade.