Pastor vows her church will stay despite deed

April 28, 2011 3:32:57 PM PDT
Parishioners are packing up at Celestial Word Ministry. The moving truck is in place and the locks are being changed. The church is out.

"I've tried to remain strong because I still believe this building belongs to us," Pastor Arlene Mills said.

But the devil's in the details.

Pastor Mills bought the property in 2004 by forcing a tax sale; basically, paying back taxes to take ownership of the property. With grants and donations, the church renovated the dilapidated building and opened, but three years ago, developer Elser Properties came in and said it had bought much of the property Mills believed was rightfully hers.

"Somebody made a mistake, nobody wants to take responsibility for it," Mills said.

The sheriff's office says it appears a past owner consolidated several West Thompson properties on one deed, but there remained two separate property tax accounts.

Mills only paid back taxes on one and her deed reflected that.

"Look at hindsight, yes we should have gotten a lawyer, but we did not know, we just figured that they forgot to put it on the deed," Mills said.

Now parishioners are left wondering where they'll go; many were left in tears this morning.

Besides a place of worship, the church here provided many services for veterans, counseling for those with drug and alcohol problems and it even was a food kitchen, but now the people who rely on those services will have to look elsewhere.

"This is a dark day for them as well because we have to find another location to work out of," Ministry member Renee Adams said.

"This is not finished. I said it the last time, I mean it this time. I am the thorn in your flesh," Mills said.