Members of a United Methodist Church in Howland that has seen dwindling attendance for years have voted to disband their congregation, becoming the denomination’s 11th Maine church to close in the past five years.
The Howland United Methodist Church’s members took their vote to disband on Wednesday, according to the Rev. Jacquelyn Brannen, the district superintendent for the denomination.
Six members made the decision to close, she said.
The Howland church’s closure vote comes a month after a United Methodist church in Waldoboro held its last service. The other Maine churches from the denomination that have closed since 2016 were located in Livermore Falls, South Paris, Bangor, Bridgton, Portland, Danforth, Round Pond, Damariscotta and on Orrs Island.
The Howland building that housed the church will not close, Brannen said. Five years ago, the congregation gave the building, located at 23 Coffin St., to the United Methodist Economic Ministries, which operates thrift shops in the Howland church and in Salem in Franklin County. The thrift shop will continue operating in Howland.
“The Howland congregation has experienced too many losses due to illness and death to continue as a church but some of the members will continue to volunteer at the thrift store,” Brannen said.
The congregation has not worshipped together in person since the COVID-19 pandemic shut down worship services in March 2020. Members have worshipped remotely with the Hampden Highlands United Methodist Church since then, according to the Howland church’s Facebook page.
Members have not decided whether they would like to gather for a final service at the church, Brannen said.
United Methodist congregations in Maine have been losing members for about 40 years as church attendance has decreased dramatically in mainline Protestant denominations across the country.
Maine is one of the least religious states in the nation. Some 22 percent of Mainers surveyed in Pew’s Religious Landscape Study of 2016 said they attended worship services each week.