😲 The Giant Religion Trend That Should Be Bigger News 🔌

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A case study: An outstanding story by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Sophie Carson inspired Smietana’s tweet.

Carson goes inside a historic downtown church that closed its doors.

Here’s how she sets the scene:

With the weeks winding down to Summerfield United Methodist Church’s final Sunday service, longtime member Bob Sarsfield unlocked a safe in the basement and pulled out a book of marriage records.

They dated to 1874.

There, in tiny cursive script, were dozens of names of people married at Summerfield a century and a half ago, their addresses and occupations and wedding dates detailed in neat columns.

“This is the stuff they want us to turn in,” Sarsfield said.

The United Methodist Church had made the all-but-inevitable decision to close Summerfield’s doors for good. Sarsfield and another dedicated member, Marcia Tremaine, were cleaning out cabinets ahead of the final day in late June. The book was a peek at the long history of a once-vibrant congregation that in recent years had lost steam.

It’s a scene that has become familiar around the country. Researchers estimate that before the COVID pandemic, 75 to 100 houses of worship closed each week in the U.S., facing the same headwinds as Summerfield: aging and dwindling congregations saddled with insurmountable upkeep costs.

Churches that are thriving today tend to offer modern services and programming.

Summerfield, the oldest Methodist congregation in Wisconsin, had shrunk to only 11 members, none under 65 years old. The historic building at North Cass Street and East Juneau Avenue, constructed in 1904 as the successor to Summerfield’s first church, needed extensive repairs.

“We could continue going on a little bit longer, but you’re looking down this dark hole and it’s just getting deeper and deeper,” said Sarsfield, chairman of the church’s trustees committee.





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