Members of one of the smallest and oldest African-American churches in Carroll County are leaving the United Methodist Conference and are gearing up to try to retain the church and its property, largely a cemetery where many have ancestors buried.

Congregants of White Rock Church in Sykesville, founded by freed slaves in the 1860s, said Sunday that they felt neglected by the Baltimore-Washington Conference of the United Methodist Church and feared their church would be ordered to close or merge with another because of its demographic: a tiny congregation with a largely graying membership. Some said that being a predominantly black congregation adds to a feeling that they will be targeted.

“We know that they are closing churches,” said Clayonia Colbert-Dorsey, whose great-great-grandmother is among congregants in a faded black-and-white photo opposite the doors to the 70-seat chapel.

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