The Lookout Mountain United Methodist Church is not for sale.
That declaration effectively removes the church building at 1300 Lula Lake Road as a potential site for a new City Hall, fire station and police station for Lookout Mountain, Ga.
A church member got the audience's attention at a recent City Council meeting when he said church membership has dropped to the point where the building probably would be for sale in a year.
Some residents at the meeting thought the stately church would make a good City Hall to replace the aging, cement-block City Hall nearby at 1214 Lula Lake Road. Others suggested the church could be repurposed as a middle school, since it's close to Fairyland Elementary School. Lookout Mountain, Ga., lacks a public school for students above fifth grade.
"The church is not for sale," said Michael Hubble, superintendent for the Chattanooga District of the Holston Conference of the United Methodist Church.
As for the church member who spoke up at the City Council meeting, Hubble said, "They had no authority to make that statement."
For the past two years, after a devastating fire in 2009, the St. Elmo United Methodist Church congregation has been meeting at the Lookout Mountain church. The St. Elmo congregation will have its first service in the rebuilt church Sunday.
The Lookout Mountain United Methodist Church has between 10 and 15 members, said church member Jerry Stone, a retired Lookout Mountain, Ga., police officer.
"All of our old members have passed, and we haven't been getting new members in," Stone said. The church had between 60 and 70 parishioners when he first joined 25 years ago.
"We've never had a great amount of people, just wonderful giving people," Stone said.
Hubble said the district has appointed a new pastor, Ambrose Havey, with a standard one-year contract.
"We hope that he will be able to do some things to attract more people," Hubble said. "We'll wait and see what the future holds as the year unfolds."
Havey said his background is in hospital and hospice work.
"People want to be respected and cared for and know they have a safe place to talk," he said. "That's what I'm going to try to provide for folks."
"I think if you have good ministry, you care for your folks. ... I think we'll do pretty well," he said.
Havey bought a house on Lookout Mountain two weeks ago, because he feels it's important to belong to the community, he said.
Tim Omarzu covers education for the Times Free Press. Omarzu is a longtime journalist who has worked as a reporter and editor at daily and weekly newspapers in Michigan, Nevada and California.