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pastor and most members were in their late 70s. “When I was younger,” he said, “there were many families, and then their children and grandchildren came. As the older generations died off, though, we didn’t see much of the younger generations once they were confirmed.” Both Rohrbach and Frock pointed to the fact that the congregation was surviving on its $135,000 endowment. “We knew we could maybe even have been surviving to this day,” Frock said, “but that’s all we would have been doing—sur- viving and maintaining the church building.”


Rohrbach remembered ongoing discussions where “they didn’t think God would want them just to stay open and bury themselves using that money.”


Although there was some initial resistance to the idea of closing, espe- cially from some of the oldest mem- bers, “when they actually sat down and talked to each other in truth and love and prayed about it,” Rohrbach said, the decision was made to have one final Christmas and close. Throughout the discussions about closing, one consistent element had been how to use the endowment and the building to create a legacy. With the encouragement and sup- port of the Westminster Conference dean, the members chose to deed the building and grounds to Carroll Lutheran School, which had been established by conference churches in nearby Westminster, Md.


When another Christian congrega- tion bought St. Paul’s building, the school used the proceeds to build a large gymnasium, “which has been in almost constant use,” said David S. Schafer, pastor of St. Benjamin Lutheran Church, Westminster, and


LISA HELFERT


Principal Bronson Jones and kids from Carroll Lutheran School, Westminster, Md., give out a cheer of thanks to Terry Frock (inset) and St. Paul Lutheran Church. Frock helped facilitate the deed of the church and its grounds to the school. The church building was later sold, allowing for the construction of the gymna- sium these kids now enjoy.


a member of the school’s board of directors. In fact, the school even rents the gymnasium to other con- gregations needing interim worship space.


As for the endowment? St. Paul’s planning group chose to award grants to several agencies that help the poor and indigent in Westminster. Additionally, they gave $15,000 to the synod’s companion, the Mara Region Diocese of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania. They also donated money to Gettysburg Seminary in memory of previous pas- tors, to the separately incorporated cemetery fund on the grounds of their former building, and to the synod’s Westminster Conference to support other small congregations that were in similar situations.


In what Schafer describes as “another time where St. Paul is living in our children,” the congregation’s donation to Mar-Lu-Ridge allowed the synod’s outdoor ministry to bring a summer camping experience to


Westminster for 100 children. When the congregation held its final worship service the Sunday after Christmas 2003, they invited all the recipients of their gifts to attend the celebration luncheon that followed. “I wasn’t a member at St. Paul,” Schafer said, “but when I attended that lun- cheon, I couldn’t imagine the amount of pride those folks must have had, knowing what their gifts would do for new and continuing ministries.” Frock, too, looks back on the congregation’s closing with satisfac- tion. “Even though we’re no longer in existence as an established congrega- tion, we’re still present in so many lives. To me, it’s God working in strange and mysterious ways, almost like he provided a gift that keeps on giving.” 


Linda Nansteel Lovell


March 2011 23


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