Taking their strength from the Bible's Books of Samuel and the story of David and Goliath, the Warnerville, Hyndsville, Dorloo, and Mineral Springs Methodist Churches have begun the battle to save their congregations.
The four are being "discontinued" by the Upper New York United Methodist Church Conference as no longer "viable."
Some 50 members of the four congregations gathered with their church leaders in Warnerville last Wednesday to pray for guidance and strength as they launched a letter-writing campaign, considered lawsuits, and discussed reorganizing under a single name.
"Let us alone," said Maynard Myers, a longtime of the Mineral Springs Methodist Church. "Let us do the things we've been doing. But let us alone."
Lay leaders in Warnerville, Hyndsville, and Dorloo shared the Conference's decision with their congregations a few weeks ago.
But in Mineral Springs, Caye Perrotti refused to share the news with her congregation.
Instead, she had District Superintendent Jan Rowell do it.
"We had no idea," said Mr. Myers. "And she said closed. Not discontinued. Whatever that is."
Some of the churches have already begun a letter-writing campaign, asking Conference Bishop Mark Webb of Syracuse to intervene and seeking an audience with him.
Church members, however, are uncertain whether there's even an appeal process
Connie Barber, also of Mineral Springs, argued they need a Plan B, "in case we don't win our battle and we're closed," throwing out the idea of a different location for what could be called the Schoharie County Community Church.
Mary Lou Haigh of Dorloo argued the small rural churches are an important part of their communities.
"We lost our post office, our store. The church is the last thing that remains in our community," she said. "And our doors are always open."
The decision to discontinue the four churches was based in part on a self-evaluation process-understood by no one-called Soil Testing
Farmer Phil Davis of Dorloo took those words literally.
When you're doing soil testing," he said, "if you find deficiencies, you nurture it. You don't abandon it."
David Houck, lay leader in Hyndsville, said friends at other Methodist congregations as well as those from other faiths were as surprised as he was by the Conference's decision.
Maybe some of them--or just people from the four communities--can also be encouraged to write letters to Bishop Webb or to the Times-Journal, others in the crowd suggested.
Maxine Christman, lay leader in Warnerville, urged that all letters be "calm and rational."
Ms. Perrotti agreed.
"I'm afraid, if you make a lot of noise, a lot of chaos, it will not be in your favor," she said.
But others said they have nothing left to lose by being more forceful.
"What else can they do to us?" asked one woman.
Lonnie Odell of Warnerville said his church is looking for a lawyer and suggested the others might want to join them.
Karla Bates of Hyndsville said she's not going to roll over.
"If this goes through...I don't think we should abandon our churches until they come up with a legal paper," she said. "And if they say we can no longer be United Methodists? Fine. We continue as the Hyndsville Church.
Which may or may not be an option.
The Conference owns the four churches' assets and buildings.
Warnerville, Hyndsville, and Mineral Springs own the land under their churches and Dorloo's looking into who owns the land under theirs.