Church prepares to close its doors
The shelves in the basement office at Farmington Community Church are all empty this week. Pastor Luke Wynja has packed the things he wants to take with him and tossed at least some of what he doesn't into a trash can that is filled well beyond its rim.
Wynja's now-bare office is just one sign of a church that on Sunday will hold its final service before members go their separate ways.
The church, which until 2008 was known as Christ Presbyterian, has existed as a congregation since 1984 and has occupied the little white church on Elm Street since 1992. Over the years the church membership came less and less from Farmington, with some members driving from Lonsdale or Woodbury. With growth slow in the city, it was difficult to find new members, Wynja said. So when a few members moved away because of job transfers, it was difficult for the church to recover.
The church was never huge. Wynja said membership peaked about five years ago at 80 to 100. By 2008, it was down to about 40.
Wynja attributed the lack of growth to a number of factors. The church is difficult to find, tucked in between two buildings and behind some trees. And Wynja suggested a small congregation like the one at Farmington Community Church can be intimidating to first-time visitors, who can't help but stand out.
Wynja, who took over in the fall of 2007, made an effort to connect the church to the Farmington community, and he had some success. A few programs drew interest. But they were difficult to sustain and they didn't bring in new members.
The church weathered a first round of departures about a year ago, when two families left as the result of the Delta-Northwest merger. But when another family moved to California a few months later church members decided they couldn't continue.
"When you have a dozen (families) and two are taken out, that's a lot," Wynja said. "That left the group that was left kind of weary."
They were tired because there were fewer people to do the work of running a church, Wynja said, but also because it was difficult to watch so many people leave. Church members decided in August to close the doors at Farmington Community Church.
It wasn't an easy decision. At least one couple has been a member of the church since it moved to its current location.
The weeks since the decision have been difficult. Wynja has tried to help members of the congregation find new places to worship, all while facing uncertainty about his own future.
The decision to close the church has given him a new perspective on the work he's doing. It's no longer his job to help build the church community.
"One of the central purposes of the church is no longer there," he said.
There is a For Sale sign out in front of the church this week. Wynja said a buyer has shown interest and he hopes to have a deal finished by the end of the week.