The Rev. Abby Auman collects keys to Six-Fourteen Church from congregants at the church's last service. The congregation has disbanded.

The Rev. Abby Auman collects keys to Six-Fourteen Church from congregants at the church’s last service. The congregation has disbanded.

Six-Fourteen Church in Masury was packed Feb. 28 as founding Pastor Jared Woodward preached for the last time. He tried to distance himself from the church’s success, and prayed that God would carry on the message and work that the church had espoused since 2011.

But, on June 20, only about 40 people showed up – plenty of unoccupied seats – as Six-Fourteen disbanded as a congregation, and the building and land were deconsecrated.

The rapid demise left some congregants stunned – many too stunned to talk about what had happened.

“I’m super sad about it,” said Amy Miletta of Poland, who had been coming to Six-Fourteen for about five

“I’m just grateful for the time we were here and the people we met and for Jared Woodward and all he has
poured into the church,” she said.

Miletta was particularly sad about how the loss of Six-Fourteen would impact her daughters, Vivian, 8,
and Cecelia, 6.

“That’s part of the reason I’m so heartbroken – This is their home,” she said. “People love them like their
own and treat them so well.”

Pastor Jared’s leaving “kind of sent shock waves through the congregation,” said the Rev. Abby Auman,
superintendent of the Mahoning Valley District of the East Ohio Conference of the United Methodist

promoAlthough Auman had been working with the congregation on short- and long-range plans to continue, and a new pastor had been named, many people who had attended Six-Fourteen went looking for new churches, or simply stopped coming.

“Those who were left decided that this was the step that was most needed,” Auman said of disbanding the
church, a decision made June 8. “While the United Methodist Church was still willing to work with Six-Fourteen and walk alongside them, the folks here said, we want those resources that you would invest to go somewhere else where people have that need.”

“It’s just hard,” she said. “I can say that the folks that I have worked with have in all things tried to be
faithful to God and balance that call to serve the community.”

The Rev. Rick Oaks preached at the final service, “I stand in a place that I never wanted to stand and
we’ve come to a time I don’t think any of us in this room ever wanted to come to.”

He tried to focus his listeners on an eternal truth that goes beyond a building or a group of people.

“When we leave, we still leave as the church,” Oaks said. “Who is the church? We are the church. You’re
the church. I’m not all the church and you’re not all the church, but we are the church. We’re the body of
Christ. We’re the people of God.”

He asked the congregants not to lose heart, something that he admitted is easy to do in such a situation.

But, he said, life throws challenges at everyone, some far greater than the ending of a church.

“Our ministry is not to an organization,” Oaks said. “Our ministry is not to a church. Our ministry is to
people. We do not exist for the sake of a church. We exist to be the church, for the sake of those who are
not yet a part of the church.”

Auman promoted other Methodist churches the congregants could attend, although she acknowledged,
“for some of you, you’ve been hurt by this experience and you are not going to want to go to a United
Methodist Church.”

She asked people to find another “faith home.”

“We are still called,” Auman said. “You are still called to live and grow in Christ and to share Christ until
everyone knows. I know that all of you will be kind of on a journey with God, again, finding a new faith
home. I encourage you to stay with it until you find it.”

The conference has no immediate plans for the building and grounds, but is in no hurry to try to sell them,
Auman said.

“We are taking a few months to pray and explore before we think about putting anything on the market, to
see what may emerge,” she said. “Sometimes a plan is clear right away and sometimes you wait and see
what God does and join in later. God is always at work and God doesn’t waste things, so we go forward
and hope.