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Zion United Church is demolished

WISHEK, North Dakota -- The building for the former Zion United Methodist Church came down the weekend of December.  It was built in 1918 and stood on the corner of 3rd Ave South and Centennial St. South for 94 years.  The original structure was added to in 1950 and 1968.  The congregation last worshiped there in August of 2011. The contents of the building were given to other churches and individuals.  The United Methodist Church in Mobridge, SD, received the altar and pulpits in September 2011.

"I share the sadness of many residents in Wishek," said Rev. Marty Toepke-Floyd, the last pastor to serve the church. "The congregation deliberated many months over the decision to take down the building, and postponed its removal as repeated efforts were made to find an interested party to move it to a new location," he said. "Over the summer, the basement sustained water damage and had mold growing it after a heavy rain.   It was an empty shell and no longer a true church.  The exterior was beginning to deteriorate, and so taking it down became necessary lest it become an eyesore and a public nuisance."

The church members had several meetings concerning the property before and after they ended worship services.   Due to the constraints of the property with the building so close to the former parsonage, and the fact that access to the garage crossed behind the building, it was deemed necessary to move or demolish the church building.  The members fielded a dozen and a half serious inquiries about moving the building, but each party decided it would cost too much to move and set it on a new foundation and remodel.   The church even offered to help pay for the move, but still there was no one who acted. 

Marvin Schnabel of Napoleon, North Dakota, and Garry Goebel of Wishek, North Dakota took the building down and put the debris in a pit at Bradley Brandner's farm where it was burned and buried.   The concrete foundation was removed, too, and dirt fill placed in the hole.   The Dan Braun family who bought the former parsonage in 2009 has the first right to purchase the empty lot where the building stood. 

"I've talked to people from other churches which have closed, and they said that if a building can't be sold, then demolition is the best option," said Rev. Toepke-Floyd.   "They told me that watching a former church building slowly deteriorate over the years or turned into a bar is a much worse fate." 

The members of the church are worshiping in other congregations in the area, and once the bills are paid, donations made to other organizations and the books are closed out, then the last members will be transferred to Zion UMC in Lehr or churches, which they have selected.

"I thank the community and the members of the Church for their interest and faithfulness.   It is a landmark of faith that will be missed," concluded Rev. Toepke-Floyd.   He continues serving the United Methodist churches in Lehr and Napoleon.

By Marty Toepke-Floyd