July 9, 2020

Historic Heard County Church Closes Doors After 125 Years

Corinth United Methodist Church in southeastern Heard County held its final service on December 29, 2019. The church is closing its doors after 15 years. The structure was originally constructed in 1895.

(Franklin, GA) — One of the oldest churches in the county has closed it’s doors after 125 years. The Corinth United Methodist Church in southeastern Heard County held its final service on Sunday, December 29. The historic church was originally constructed in the Corinth community in 1895.

Corinth UMC has one of the smaller congregations in the North Georgia Conference of the United Methodist Church, but some members can trace their family ties at the location back several decades.

The future became uncertain for the church and about 20 other smaller congregations in the LaGrange District last year when members of the 2019 North Georgia Annual Conference voted to institute a minimum salary for part-time pastors, according to spokeswoman Sybil Davidson in an article published by the AJC last fall.

Beginning in 2020, churches are responsible to pay a minimum salary to part-time pastors, and with a small number of active members at many of these rural churches, congregations are facing very difficult decisions just like Corinth UMC.

Other denominations have also leveled off or seen attendance drop in recent years.

The percentage of Americans who say they belong to a church, synagogue or mosque is about 50%, an all-time low, according to a 2018 Gallup poll. The same figure was roughly 70% in 1999.

A drop in church membership is following a cultural trend that includes an increasing number of Americans with no religious preference.

People moving out of the area, not going to church or joining larger, more contemporary churches are cited as reasons for declining membership at small rural churches specifically.

The building will likely be sold, but the church cemetery behind the structure will remain in place.

About 30-40 people gathered for the final Homecoming service at Corinth UMC led by part-time Pastor Harvey Bane.

“A church exists in the cycle of life. They are born, they flourish, they get old, and they die, just like a human being,” said Pastor Bane.

During the service, many joyous memories were shared, but some tears were also shed.

Church member John Callaway recounted some of the history of the church including thoughts about many past leaders and Pastors.

Many of the older and most dedicated members of the church have passed away — a primary reason for the smaller numbers in attendance each Sunday at the 125-year-old church.

One of the most beloved and dedicated of those members who passed away in 2018 was Mrs. Johnie Kent — said by many to have been the ‘glue’ that held the congregation together for so many years.

“The passing of Mrs. Kent was the beginning of the end,’ said Pastor Bane Sunday.

Mrs. Kent’s daughter-in-law Linda Kent was in attendance Sunday and shared some thoughts about her late mother-in-law’s love for her church.

“I’ve been coming to this church with my in-laws off and on for 37 years,” said Linda Kent. “I saw Johnie Kent work so hard for this place — she loved this church with all her heart — she and Jack (her husband) both did. They loved each and every person that came here and I saw her over the years pour so much into this place — it just meant so much to her. If she could be here today I know she would be sad. But I’m so thankful for all the good memories and wonderful events we got to share here.”

The offering from the service was donated to God’s Bread Basket, a food-aid ministry in Hogansville, and the congregation sang together from the hymn “Shalom To You” to end the final program at the church.

Comments

  1. Elaine Cox says

    I am so sorry to hear of the closing of this church. I came to the cemetery looking for a friend who had relatives buried there.
    May I make a suggestion that any documents, paperwork, etc that you have on the history of this church be donated to the Heard County Historical Society if there is one..so that the history is not lost. Prayers 🙏🙏🙏🙏

  2. Shouldn’t this church be on the historic register; therefore, protected?

  3. Susan Patterson says

    Sad to hear, after Katrina some of their members helped our families by removing fallen trees off our houses. We will never forget their kindness.
    May God bless them all.

  4. I’d gladly drive there every week to bring the word. Pay my gas, and what you can.

  5. J. Jackson says

    Please contact me via email. I would like to help.

  6. Richard W. Scott says

    Back when The Methodist leadership chose to join the United Brethren and become the United Methodist I attended Park Street Methodist in West End Atlanta Ga. The building could seat 2000 people and did, when the pastor made the announcement half of the members rose and left the church forever. This, I am afraid is where the declining membership started. Numerous congregations refuse to accept the corruption the United Brethren would bring into the denomination and became independent Methodists. If they had kept to the old paths they would not be having this problem.

    • The merger you mentioned was with the Evangelical United Brethren (EUB), in 1968. The EUB was NOT a corrupt church, in fact was more traditional than the Methodists. You need to look to another theory of when membership started dwindling and why.

  7. Alice Williams says

    This has been the Jackson family Church for generations. It has seen both my sister and I walk down the aisle in marriage, as well as hold the funerals of our beloved parents who are buried in the cemetery behind the Church. It holds a sacred place in my heart. This truly saddens me. Such fond memories of Homecomings, family gatherings and the Church that built my sweetest memories. I will return to rest behind that Precious Church when my time is done so I will just say…til we meet again. 😥🙏🙏🙏

  8. Charles Josey says

    These small rural churches have fed the large city churches for years. The small town church that I grew up in now has far less members than it has sent to the big Atlanta church I now attend. The goose that laid golden eggs is cooked.

  9. David Nunn says

    The North Georgia Annual Conference needs to stay out of other people’s business.

  10. Agatha Goodwin says

    So sad and this is happening all over and could very well be in the future of our two
    Small churches on Cedar is. N.C. I surely hope not losing a post office and churches is a
    Big loss to a community for many reasons.
    Our world is changing so rapidly and I do believe God is coming soon.

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