A St. Paul church faced with closing after most of the congregation left over the pastor’s support of gay marriage said Friday it’s leaving its worship space and will look for a new church home.
Grace Community United Church of Christ, the only UCC church in Minnesota with a predominantly black congregation, declined to extend its Saturday deadline to raise about $200,000 to pay off a high-interest loan and legal fees, said the church’s pastor, the Rev. Oliver White.
After days of tense negotiating this week between the church and the investor holding the loan, Grace leadership decided it did not want to keep paying to stay in the beige stucco building on the East Side of St. Paul.
White says it will be sad saying goodbye to the space congregants worshiped in for nearly 12 years, but he hopes to buy a new church using the nearly $55,000 he’s received from dozens of churches, groups and individuals nationwide.
“I’m overwhelmed with a lot of belief in the power of humankind,” he said. “It’s been an amazing display of human kindness. There will be sadness [when the congregation leaves]. But it’s still a building. We are the church. We don’t have to be in that building to be Grace Community Church.”
White’s story has attracted national media attention, and he’s made several television and radio appearances in recent weeks. He saw an uptick in giving to his campaign to save the church as a result, though it’s since tapered off. About half the money has come from donors in Minnesota, while the rest came from people across the United States and even in other countries, he said.
All the attention is unexpected, and White never thought he’d be in such a spot-light after leading the congregation for 22 years: “I never dreamed it’d go as far as it did, but it did.”
The small congregation has struggled financially and saw its situation worsen in 2005, when White attended a national UCC assembly in Atlanta and
This article originally appeared on: http://www.startribune.com/local/stpaul/160884695.html