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Wednesday, February 4, 2009

"Rural Churches Grapple with a Pastor Exodus" - The Protestant Minister Crisis

Apparently allowing a married clergy will not necessarily solve the vocations crisis...

From Time.com
By David Van Biema/Crookston

Carol Porter, 63 and no word mincer, sits in her modest kitchen in Euclid, Minn., and recalls the day her 118-year-old church was burned to the ground. "I was baptized, confirmed and married there," she reports. Her family had moved two lots down from Euclid's First Presbyterian, so she was able to watch through the kitchen window a few years ago as fellow parishioners knocked down the church, buried its fixtures and then put a match to what remained, sending a thousand Sundays of memories up in smoke.

America's rural congregations, thinned by age and a population drain that plagues much of farm country, have gotten too small and too poor to attract pastors. No pastor means no church. And losing one's church--well, Porter has a vivid memory of that, living as she does in an area where abandoned buildings are control-burned for safety. The flames were taller than a man, she remembers. "In plain English," she says, "it looked like hell."

The ticktock of farm auctions and foreclosures in the heartland, punctuated by the occasional suicide, has seldom let up since the 1980s. But one of the malaise's most excruciating aspects is regularly overlooked: rural pastors are disappearing even faster than the general population, leaving graying congregations helpless in their time of greatest need.

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