When Pastor Daniel Macomber arrived at Cumberland Street Baptist Church in Dunn four years ago, he saw the warning signs. A checkered past, dwindling membership and a lack of public excitement painted the picture of a church struggling to keep its doors open.
Despite repeated revitalization attempts, nothing really took hold enough to sustain the required growth needed for survival, forcing Macomber to make a difficult decision.
Cumberland Street Baptist Church held its last service this past Sunday morning December 29th at 10:30. Originally founded as Emmanuel Baptist Church on July 8, 1973, Cumberland’s struggles over the past decade finally proved too much to overcome. With a single member now regularly attending service, Macomber felt the time had to come to put the church to rest.
“The church has had its ups and downs throughout the years,” Macomber said. “The church has reached the point where life support is no longer possible and the reminder of the pain has been too difficult for former members to remain and the ability to grow. Growth isn’t happening to where we can sustain financially.”
Following a period of growth, Macomber said a fracture between the community and the church only grew over the years, eroding public trust and limiting its ability to grow its flock. CSBC struggled to stand out in the community and never could overcome a negative stigma that even Macomber has difficulty explaining.
“It’s hard to decipher what it is, but former members have mentioned the pain and don’t want to even step foot in the building,” said Macomber. “It’s that deep. For many in the community, they’re almost happier that it’s closing than to see it continue. When I came on four years ago, the hope was to see the church grow, to bring new life into it. When we initially came, it was like a funeral at that time. We’ve tried different things but it hasn’t happened.”
CSBC’s closure marks a trend that is impacting communities nationwide. Macomber attended the Southern Baptist convention and was told an average of 900 churches close every week. Macomber cited several factors, including diversity, being able to bridge generational gaps and a change in the public perception of churches in general.
“It is a problem,” Macomber said. “Mentors who study revitalization say go to the local McDonald’s and see who’s there. If your church doesn’t look that way you’re not doing your job as a ministry. Communities change around the church and if you’re not able to reach that community, why is the church there? I grew up in church, you wanted to go to church, but the dynamic has changed to where a lot of people aren’t drawn to the church.”
Rehobeth Word Ministries has subleased the three-story church for several years and plans to take over the 10:30 Sunday morning service heading into 2020. Pastor Eric Thornton, in addition to Tuesday Bible study and 8:30 a.m. Sunday service, will assume his new duties starting Jan. 5.
“We’ll be taking over the 10:30 a.m. service for them,” Thornton said. “We have been a support group to Cumberland Street to help try and keep them out of difficult times. They have fellowship with our ministry since we’ve been there. We continue to be a thriving ministry in the city of Dunn.”
Thornton agreed that churches need to keep finding ways to reach the community if they are to remain viable.
“A lot of churches are trying to figure out how to become marketable,” said Thornton. “How do we maintain when people are not going to church for whatever the case may be? A lot of people are trying to figure that out.”
Macomber and his wife, Ellison, opened Positive Nutrition in the East Point Village shopping center on Sept. 28, and he said the experience helps him interact daily with the community and spread positivity.
-Dunn Daily Record