GAINESVILLE - The pastor of New Holland United Methodist church likened churches to living entities this week. It's Rev. Paul Youngblood's final few days as pastor of the historic church.
"They (churches) thrive and grow. Sometimes they need a fresh start or do-over, and New Holland had reached a point where the congregation had just gotten too small to continue as it was," Youngblood said.
The church building sits at 2 Spring Street in the historic New Holland Mill community.
Youngblood said the decision to close a United Methodist Church can come at the conference level or the church level. In this case, it was the latter.
The remaining congregation is expected to, 'fan out,' as Youngblood put it.
"Usually it's one close to their home, or they have some other tie in."
Youngblood didn't have exact years, but he believed the congregation had been in existance since the planned mill community was built around 1900. At one point, the methodist and baptist congregations shared the building.
According to the Northeast Georgia History, Pacolet Manufacturing Co. built the church in 1904 as part of its mill community.
"There's generations of people that have either been members or had had relationships with the church," Youngblood said.
"It's emotional. It's like losing somebody you care for very much, all the memories that are tied to it."
But as members of the church prepare to say goodbye, Youngblood said there may be church life left for the site.
"The families that have been there want to see the property continue to be used as a church facility," Youngblood said.
He said the church family has signed the deeds over to the trustees of the Gainesville District of the United Methodist Church.
"It's our understanding that what they will do is try to find a new group of people, a new congregation, to make use of that same church. I don't know when it will happen, but the lights could come back on and the church building be put back into use some time in the next few months," Youngblood said.
He noted recent commercial growth in the New Holland area and that the church would be in a great location for a community re-birth.
As far as Youngblood's plans, he said he's bi-vocational. He's a part-time minister, meaning he's looking for another job. There's a chance the denomination will use his ministry if there's an opening somewhere, but he's not sure if that's a possibility yet.
"We trust God. He's always supplied everything we need. I could use another job, so I'm expecting that to show up. I'll do my part. I'll keep my head up and (be) looking around."
The final service for the current New Holland United Methodist Church will include a message from Gainesville District UMC Superintendent Richard Chewning. It's a message Youngblood said he'd probably be too emotional to deliver.
Youngblood has asked remaining members to share special or fond memories of the church.
"I hope to hear something new and interesting from them. There's a lot of history there, a lot of good stories with different people."