A little more than a month ago, the congregation of Pitchin Communuity Church found their doors locked and their building on the auction block. Now, it appears their prayers have been answered.
The dispute between the church members and the West Ohio Conference of the United Methodist Church began in April after the congregation voted to end its Methodist affiliation and officially became non-denominational.
However, the UMC argued the church and its contents were property of the local district office, as outlined in church doctrine, keeping the members out of the building and placing a sign on the property that it would be auctioned off this week.
Pastor Jacob Cultice, a lifetime member, likened the congregation’s battle to keep praising God at the sanctuary on Selma Pike to that of David and Goliath. And like the Biblical story, the small congregation has overcome.
“We’re glad the Methodists aren’t going to die like Goliath did, but we feel that God has blessed us the same way he did David,” Cultice said. “We’re not going to auction. We have worked out a tentative agreement.”
The UMC has authorized an order of release on the church property. Although Cultice is in possession of the original, hand-written deed signed in 1842 that indicates it belongs to the trustees of Concord Methodist Protestant Church of Green Twp., a new deed will officially make the Pitchin Community Church owners.
The congregation will remain the proprietors of the small cemetery there, and the UMC will relinquish any control over the property, according to the paperwork. In exchange, the church will pay the UMC $7,000 to cover the cost of the paperwork and attorney fees — much less than the $21,500 that would have been the opening bid on the auction block, Cultice said.
Trustees are expected to assign the agreement within the week.
Being able to worship in the sanctuary again, and knowing they will be praising God there in the foreseeable future, is a blessing, said church member Missie Pinkerman.
“(We’re) very excited to get the paperwork done, finalized, and not having to worry about having the doors locked,” she said. “As far as we’re concerned, God’s doors are always open.”
The Pitchin Community Church will have services Sunday at 11 a.m.
We broke this story
The Springfield News-Sun first reported about problems between a small congregation and the district church office that it had broken away from earlier this year. After our story, the two sides negotiated a tentative agreement to allow the congregation clear title to the building.