Services at Episcopal church held on front lawn; building closed

Church members alarmed with unexpected closing

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Members of a local congregation found themselves holding services on the front lawn Sunday.

Saint Andrews Episcopal Church in east Charlotte closed its doors this week, catching many people by surprise.

"It was very sudden..we haven't gotten use to it yet," Gay Porter.

"It's terribly disappointing, terribly disappointing," said Tom Brice, a church member.

Tom Brice says he's shocked and hurt over the news that services at St. Andrew's Episcopal Church have been suspended.

Brice says he's been a member for 38 years. It's his home away from home.

"There's a lot of elderly people that go to our church and this is family to them, I mean it's one of the friendliest churches,"said Brice.

But membership and finances at the church have been dwindling over the years. And last week, the church had no choice but to let its pastor go. Still, there was hope things would turn around.

So, when the Episcopal Diocese of North Carolina called a meeting at the church Wednesday night, members were excited. Then came the bombshell.

"Then when they said 'no, we're shutting it down', it just took us very much by surprise," said Brice.

Church members say they were told the church had fallen behind on payments to the Diocese.

WBTV on your side contacted the Diocese which released a statement saying "The vestry, which is the governing body of the church elected by the congregation, made the request after several years of efforts by the vestry and diocesan staff  to address financial and subsequent staffing difficulties at St. Andrew's. For the time being, all church operations are suspended while the Diocese works to determine St. Andrew's future."

On Thursday, Brice and his fellow church members met for their weekly lunch at a friend's house since the church is no longer open.

Members say they are so upset, some of them couldn't even sleep. Evelyn Holbrook,89, has been a member for 58 years. She says she's heartbroken.

"It just lifts us up and that's what keeps me going," said Holbrook.

"My dream for the church is whatever happens that we are moved together," Ruth Alden said.

 Copyright 2013 WBTV. All rights reserved.