Rural Churches Grapple with a Pastor Exodus

The only group vanishing faster than the population in rural America is its pastors, stranding farm congregations and challenging church leaders to find new models

David Bowman for TIME

In Minnesota, Daniel Wolpert pastors a conventional, aging congregation but also runs a contemplation center on a plot of former farmland.

Carol Porter, 63 and no word mincer, sits in her modest kitchen in Euclid, Minn., and recalls the day her 118-year-old church was burned to the ground. "I was baptized, confirmed and married there," she reports. Her family had moved two lots down from Euclid's First Presbyterian, so she was able to watch through the kitchen window a few years ago as fellow parishioners knocked down the church, buried its fixtures and then put a match to what remained, sending a thousand Sundays of memories up in smoke.

America's rural congregations, thinned by age and a population drain that plagues much...

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