BIG TIMBER, Mont. — Without their consent or knowledge, a pastor in rural Montana has sold his church and congregation on eBay for $3 million.
"I finally got good and sick of them," says Tad Marshall, pastor for 15 years who completed the secret sale last week. "This serves them right. All of them."
But many in the church are stunned by the Marshall family’s sudden departure.
"We had such a good relationship," says Winifred Barnes. "Whenever I called him in the middle of the night to pray for my psoriasis, he was happy to help. I’m surprised he would treat us this way."
Others expressed similar feelings.
"We would stop by for surprise visits every time he had a day off, and his wife was always quick to put a pot of coffee on," says Fred Souther. "We’d sit there and chat for hours. Those were wonderful times."
One woman recalls how Pastor Marshall responded to her plea to visit her ailing mother every day during her prolonged illness at a hospital 78 miles away.
"I don’t think he did it because we threatened to quit the church. I think he was genuinely concerned for Mother even though she was in a coma," she says. "We would sit with her for hours singing hymns to her. I could tell he was blessed by it."
Another longtime member recalls the day a group of women surprised the pastor’s wife with an impromptu shopping trip.
"It was clear she was unable to afford modest clothing, so we charged right in and threw away everything in her closet," she says. "Then we bought her new ankle-length dresses with long sleeves. She cried tears of joy that day. She kept saying, ‘I can’t believe you’re doing this.’ It was a bonding moment for all of us."