Closing usually ranks as the worst fate that can befall a congregation. When Kathy Rohrbach asked the members of St. Paul Lutheran Church, Uniontown, Md., even the children agreed that it was.
It was fall 2003 and the historic congregation, dating to 1879, had dwindled to about 25 worshipers each Sunday. Casual discussions about the possibility of closing had begun some 10 years before Rohrbach served her internship year there. She was asked by the congregation to return as a stated supply pastor during her senior year at the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg (Pa.).
|Principal Bronson Jones and kids from Carroll Lutheran School, Westminster, Md., give out a cheer of thanks to Terry Frock and St. Paul Lutheran Church.
Rohrbach, now ordained and serving as an interim minister in the Delaware-Maryland Synod, approached the situation at St. Paul from a "hospice" perspective. She agreed to work with the congregation for six months if everyone would commit to using that time for prayer, discussion and discernment.
Terry Frock, who served several terms as council president, was the fourth generation of his family to attend St. Paul. At the time Rohrbach was asked to return, he remembers that the situation was difficult. There was no full-time pastor and most members were in their late 70s. "When I was younger," he said, "there were many families, and then their children and grandchildren came. As the older generations died off, though, we didn't see much of the younger generations once they were confirmed."
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