Lloydsville Minister Hopes To Reopen Church
photo by: Carri Graham
Lloydsville Methodist Church officials hope to reopen the church after it was forced to close its doors by a governing entity in late March.
Laity minister John Satterfield said the East Ohio Conference of the United Methodist Church based in Wintersville opted to close what he termed the “historical” church due to lack of attendance; however, he believes there were ulterior motives behind the decision.
“It’s a political thing. … All these churches have low attendance right now. They want to sell, if they can, the property,” he alleged. “There’s a vacant lot off of (U.S.) Route 40, there’s a parsonage there, and then there’s the church property that’s connected.”
Satterfield said he attempted to stop the closure to no avail, and then recused himself from the conference as a result. He said he is hoping the church can become independent from the conference and then could reopen. His main goal is to remain a church and reopen for its congregation of “more than 20 residents.”
While Satterfield feels there were ulterior motives for the closure, the Rev. Bruce Hitchcock, superintendent of the UMC East Ohio Conference, insists there were not. Hitchcock said there were two reasons for the closure: low attendance and lack of funding.
“They were out of people and out of money – they were broke. They were averaging six or fewer people a week and, unfortunately with all organizations like a church, you have to have enough money to pay the utilities and the pastor, and they did not,” Hitchcock said, adding that he was called in to assess the situation by the Lloydsville church.
These reasons prompted the process to close the church, Hitchcock said.
“It’s always a very difficult thing to choose to do. It was not something that any of us really wanted to do, but when you have neither money nor people in the congregation, it’s best to close that building rather than continue to just struggle and not really meet the mission of the church or the needs of the community anymore,” he added.
Hitchcock said he suggested the church use the space as a community center as it would be the “best use” for the building and the area; however, no one has come forward willing to head up that effort.
Instead, he said the building and property most likely will be put up for sale although Hitchcock said the conference is still open to receiving input on potential uses for the former church.
Satterfield admitted attendance has declined over the last couple of years due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The former entrance sign is now covered by a tarp, though no for sale signs are visible on the property.
Mary Ann Droll, a nearby resident and supporter of the church, said the closure was “dreadful.”
“It’s unacceptable. I’m very disappointed in the conference for deciding to close the church,” she said, adding that she is a friend of the church and participated in some of its activities.
Former church pastor Andrew Thompson said although church leaders attempted to increase attendance at Lloydsville, they were unsuccessful in doing so.
“The church did a lot of events to help out the community. We worked really hard to reach out to people and share God’s love, and mostly we just ended up closing because we had low membership and the folks were getting older and we couldn’t really afford to keep the building going,” he said.
“Even though the building’s closed, the church still has the people inside and those people are alive and doing wonderful things.”
Thompson, who is also the pastor at the Belmont United Methodist Church, is not involved in Satterfield’s efforts to reopen the Lloydsville location. He noted that if the church does remain open, it most likely would no longer be a Methodist church.