Sunday was the final service for Century Christian Church at 1301 Tamarack Road.
The Rev. Betty Sivis, who pastored the church for the past four years, said there were multiple factors such as its smaller, older membership that caused the church to decline, but it was the COVID-19 pandemic that accelerated the closure.
When she arrived in January 2017, Sivis said the church, which has the capacity to seat about 200, was averaging 60 people on Sundays then.
“It’s been an aging congregation for a little over 20 years and that was starting to catch up with them financially,” Sivis said. “And we really couldn’t withstand the strain that was placed on the finances because of COVID. We did have a few things we had to take care of with the building that also hurt us. So it was just the perfect storm of things that added to our having to admit that we were unable to continue on financially.”
Century Christian Church is a Disciples of Christ denomination, which began in western Pennsylvania and Kentucky in the 1800s, according to its website — disciples.org.
“The Disciples have a long heritage of openness to other Christian traditions having come into existence as a 19th-century protest movement against denominational exclusiveness. At the local level and beyond, Disciples are frequently involved in cooperative and ecumenical work,” its website says.
Century Christian Church was a church plant 61 years ago by First Christian Church, which will now be Daviess County’s only Disciples of Christ denomination.
Chris Michael, pastor at First Christian Church, said the two congregations aren’t merging but it’s likely that some members of Century will make First Christian, at 700 J.R. Miller Blvd., their new church home.
“We are welcoming any and all from their space who would come here but I think they will have others that go elsewhere,” Michael said. “…I think they’re like a lot of other places — and it’s not just Disciples — where people have switched or stopped going to church. I think it hurt them to lose them and then the pandemic did what it did to a lot of congregations, which kind of shoved them right out the door.”
According to Sivis, Century Christian Church has created a planning team that will be in charge of selling the church’s assets and property.
Although church properties are tax-exempt, the Daviess County Property Valuation’s Office lists the 5.3 acres and its church building at more than $1.462 million.
“The plan is to take the assets, including what comes for the sale of the property, and create some sort of long-term investment that will benefit local missions,” Sivis said.
As for Sivis herself, she has been seeking another church call but so far has had no luck.
“Unfortunately, there’s a lot of churches around the nation that are going through the same things, so there really aren’t that many pulpits open,” she said.
In the meantime, she plans to return home to Ashland.
“I’ve always known that churches are not permanent,” Sivis said. “They live and die like all things do. And my constant message throughout this whole process is that we are a Resurrection people. So whatever deaths come and go in our lives, they are never going to be the end of the story.”
Don Wilkins, email@example.com, 270-691-7299