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Columbus Methodist Church closes

Congregation disbanded after 52 years

COLUMBUS—Columbus United Methodist Church has closed its doors after 52 years in the community.

Pastor Mitzi Johnson made the announcement recently that the church has decided to close its congregation.

Johnson said she began as pastor on Jan. 1, 2020 and her first task was to familiarize herself with the membership roll, but quickly realized that in the last year, the congregation had shrunk by more than a third. She said there was no conflict, member remaining were dedicated, loving and faithful, but many members had relocated to other towns to be close to family or suffered illnesses, with some just drifting away.

The Columbus United Methodist Church, located at 76 N. Peak St., Columbus, was dedicated in 1968.

The building was the beginning of the Thermal Belt Outreach Ministry, with founder Eloise Thwing a faithful member there for many years before her death.

The building has also been known to the community for many organizations, including 6 12-step groups, 3 scouting groups, a Ham radio club and to the Wellness Project Community Group.

Johnson said she suggested trying radical things to reach out when the congregation diminished. The congregation said they had tried and if that was going to work, it would have already worked.

“We discussed various possibilities of moving forward, but ultimately the weekly grief of walking into an almost empty sanctuary felt like too much,” Johnson said. “A long goodbye is painful for everyone.”

The congregation voted in early March to discontinue and to return the building to the Western North Carolina Conference of the United Methodist Church on April 30. Johnson said the Conference Trustees will decide what to do with the building, but she is confident they will make a decision that builds up the community.

Johnson made an online farewell video to say goodbye.

“Columbus UMC was God’s gift for a season,” she said. “We are thankful for the many ways it has served the mission given to it by Jesus Christ. It has accomplished its purpose. Columbus UMC is now disbanded, but Christ’s holy Church is of God, and will be preserved to the end of time.”