WESTMORELAND, TN (WSMV) - The church that was home of some of the victims found murdered in their homes on Charles Brown and Luby Brown roads is struggling for its survival.
In April seven people were found murdered inside their homes. Several of the victims attended Mount Olive United Methodist Church, which is reporting longtime financial struggles.
Stephen Austin, a member of the church, believes it’s time to fight for the church. That’s what he said about his music shop, part of downtown Portland for 20 years, and it’s what he’s saying now about his church home.
"I've been going there since the 90s," said Austin. "It's historic. It goes back into the 1800s. I just love that little mountain top church."
Several members have told News4 that after years of struggling with low enrollment, the church has recently talked about possibly closing. The members have spoken about a recent meeting on the subject.
"Even though the church has talked about closing for years because they've had trouble supporting themselves, I'm questioning the wisdom of doing it now," said Austin. "I think it'd be another blow to the community. It's just, the wounds are so raw."
Rev. Scott Aleridge of the Cumberland River District of the United Methodist Church told News4 in a statement:
"At this current time, there is no specific plans to close Mount Olive.
As you are aware, the tragic events that took place the last few months in the surrounding area have been devastating to the members of the church and the community. Rev. John Vida, who was the pastor at the time, offered pastoral support during his tenure to not only the families and friends of the members that lost their lives but also many others affected by the deaths.
Mount Olive continues to meet this July at 9:00 a.m. on Sundays under the guidance of Rev. Bo Johnson.
Mount Olive UMC is a small congregation that has needed financial assistance over the last year to meet the operating expenses as well as payroll. The members of the church will be meeting later in July to further discuss both the need for a missional outpost in the community as well as how they can become financially sustainable while serving the community.
For those who are interested in helping with financial assistance for the church, tax deductible donations can be sent to the Cumberland River District Office at 35-A Executive Park Dr., Hendersonville, TN 37075, clearly marked ‘For Mount Olive United Methodist Church.’
We hope that you will join us in prayer as we envision the possibilities to continue the ministry of Mount Olive United Methodist Church to the community in Sumner County."
Another member of Mount Olive told News4 he believes closing is inevitable, and it doesn't make sense to keep a struggling church open.
Austin said, during tragedies in his life, he's thought about closing his music shop. He said he always fought through it for a place he loves, and he wants his church to do the same.
"Everybody's in shock from the murders, and we need time before we can close the doors," said Austin. "We need time."