Friday, November 21, 2014

When churches close, what remains?

Going to church is no longer cool. According to the Pew Research Center, two thirds of Americans under 30 have no religious affiliation.

The US Census Bureau says about 1,000 new churches open each year, but more than 4,000 disband and close their doors forever. So what's left behind when a church disbands? Some edifices are sold to other denominations, or converted into condos or music venues. One former Protestant church is now the Dan Quayle Vice-Presidential Museum. Members who worshipped or taught Sunday School or played the piano in these disbanded churches are long forgotten, except in Boonville, Indiana.

Mark Hendrickson presents grants for 2014

When the Christian Science church in Boonville disbanded in 1995, its few remaining members voted to leave a legacy to the community they loved. After the edifice was sold and all debts paid, they used most of their surplus funds to establish an irrevocable trust at Boonville's People's Trust and Savings Bank. The trust is administered by bank president Mark Hendrickson, the only surviving member of the church. Grants from the trust are awarded each year to non-profit organizations within Warrick County which uphold the church's values through community service.

Last week, in the photo shown above, Hendrickson awarded a total of $53,000 to deserving non-profits, including $2,000 to a soup kitchen, $6,000 to the Tri-State Food Bank, and $5,000 to the Warrick County Council on Aging. 

It's not known how much money is in the trust, but only interest is used when awarding grants each year. In the past 19 years, local agencies have received $1.4 million, and the church not forgotten.

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