How can a church drop members because of their age? Sounds pretty far-fetched. For members of one congregation, it became a chilling reality.
A Minnesota church told members 60-years-old and over to worship elsewhere so they can focus on bringing in younger families.
The Grove United Methodist Church in Cottage Grove, Minn. sent a memo that it’s closing in the summer and will reopen in November. If current members over the age of 60 desire to return, they can reapply for membership in two years.
“This is totally wrong,” Cheryl Gackstetter told the Grand Forks Herald. “They are discriminating against us because of our age.”
The church said it needs to “reset” and “reopening the church is the best way to appeal to younger people.”
Peaceful Grove Church was established by pastor Jim Baker in an elementary school three decades ago. The church moved into their building and later united with Woodberry in 2008. They are now the Woodbury and Cottage Grove branches of the Grove United Methodist Church. Cottage Grove continuously struggled financially and could no longer pay for a minister.
Today, the church is more stabilized. However, more needs to be done said Rev. Dan Wetterstromhead, who heads the two church locations.
“We are asking them to let this happen,” said Wetterstrom. “For this to be truly new, we can’t have the core group of 30 people. The members of the church have other options. They can come to Woodbury during this phase.”
The Methodists’ regional Annual Conference will give $250,000 to restart the church and selected church specialist Jeremy Peters, 30, to lead the way.
“It’s a new thing with a new mission for a new target,” said Peters, “and a new culture.”
Gackstetter doesn’t want to go somewhere else, but will not keep attending where she’s not welcomed.
“We are supposed to be silent partners and still give money. We are mostly 60 and up,” she said. They don’t want to go where they are not wanted.”
Her husband, William Gackstetter, agreed and said the church asked them to do maintenance until the reopening.
“They want us to mow the lawn and shovel the snow,” he said. “As if anyone would do that. This whole plan makes me sick. I believe it’s evil.”
Members will not be barred from attending the church, but need to embrace the new efforts.
“If they are on board with that, they are welcome to attend and engage,” said Peters.