NEW MATAMORAS-Just two years ago the Grace Community Church, on Ohio 7 and across from the library in New Matamoras, was better known as the New Matamoras Church of the Nazarene.
The Nazarene faith is a Protestant Christian faith based in the Wesleyan-Holiness tradition. Organized in 1908, the Nazarene faith has more than 2 million members worshiping in more than 26,000 local congregations in 159 world areas.
According to Norma Beaver, long-time church goer, the New Matamoras church was built in 1953. She started attending in 1958. She said in recent years attendance at the church has been in decline and there are currently around 10 members.
AMANDA NICHOLSON The Marietta Times
Beulah Smith, a longtime church goer, stands in front of the Grace Community church in New Matamoras Wednesday.
After being with the Nazarene denomination for 60 years, church goers wanted a change, especially when the denomination said a permanent pastor couldn't be found to meet the needs of the small congregation.
"We just changed (to a nondenominational church) a year ago," said church treasurer and custodian Pam Rake. "We wanted to get out of the denomination."
There have been five pastors at the church since it formed in 1953 and the church is currently looking for a new pastor.
"We're without a preacher right now but we're praying we get one," said Beulah Smith, another long-time church member.
Smith started attending the church in 1956.
"It's the only church I've ever known," she said.
The change from having a denomination to being nondenominational was a long process that started in 2011 and didn't end with the usual selling of the church and its contents.
"We are the first church in the Nazarene denomination that they gave us back our church," Rake said. "It took almost a year for them to give us the church back."
Rake said the decision was made after the denomination said they could keep the church if it received a year's payment of apportionments. The payment was made and the church was able to operate without a denomination.
"We felt in our spirit that God wanted us to be nondenominational," Rake said.
After operating for a year without a denomination, she said the church is still in a transition process.
"We're still in transition but we're going strong," she said.
Beaver said the church still focuses on the same teachings.
"What's a denomination anyway?" she asked. "Aren't we all trying to get to the same place? It's by the grace of God that we are saved."