HJ/EDHerald Journal, Dec. 12, 2005

Howard Lake Methodist church closes

By Liz Hellmann
Staff Writer

The doors of a church are supposed to be open to all, but Walker United Methodist Church in Howard Lake has an unwelcome guest, which forced the church to close its doors for good.

Mold was discovered in the church basement Oct. 2, and has become such a big problem the church has decided to close.

“It’s the sort of thing that can give folks respiratory problems,” Pastor Rob Kopp said.

Because of the magnitude of the problem, Kopp believes the mold growth might have been there for a long time, but the hailstorms toward the end of September encouraged its growth by letting more water in.

“It was building up for a while, and that (the storms) caused the whole thing to take off,” Kopp said.

For the past few months, the church has been evaluating the problem and possible solutions.

One solution would be to repair the damage and eradicate the mold, but it would cost too much, the church finally decided.

“We would have to dig around the foundation and figure out where water is getting in,” Kopp said. “It would cost a minimum of $25,000 to repair, probably more.”

The church decided not to relocate to a new building, as it did not seem feasible.

“The congregation has been decreasing in size for the last decade or so,” Kopp said.

About 15 to 20 people attend weekly worship services, most elderly, according to Kopp.

After discussing the resources needed to move, the congregation decided against it.

“It has been a really difficult process for the congregation, and not everyone agreed with closing the church,” Kopp said.

But the decision to close the church was the final one, and members gathered for the last worship service two weeks ago.

The church will officially close in January.

In the meantime, members are being dispersed to different area congregations.

Kopp, who joined the church about a year and a half ago, will finish seminary. He will graduate in spring and receive a new congregation.

A group will meet to decide what to do next, although what happens to the building will have to be finally approved by the United Methodist Church Annual Conference in Minnesota.

The local congregation will meet to evaluate the situation and make recommendations, but the church and property ultimately belong to the United Methodist Church Annual Conference.


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