In 206 years, Christ Church UMC in Southwick, Massachusetts, has survived changes to its name, facilities and membership. After more than two years of the COVID-19 pandemic, members voted in May to permanently disband the congregation on July 1 due to their dwindling numbers, and the pastor decided it was a good time to retire too.
Church officials explained in their brief history account that they had started to accept that they were at the “end of an era” around 2019.
“With diminishing numbers and an aging population, by 2019 church members began to recognize that we could no longer do what we once did,” the note added. “So we have come to the end of an era: the closure of the church on July 1, 2022.”
Jones said she saw the end coming, too, when all the younger people moved away.
“The kids are all gone now,” she told Mass Live. “They moved away and at my age what else could we do.”
Another member, Carol Locke, who has been a part of the church for 22 years agreed. She said much of the revenue-generating work of the church required younger people and the church is short of that.
“We are a very old congregation. Most of us are over 80 and we can’t do the potluck dinners and the craft fairs and all that kind of stuff,” she said. “It has been (a big part of her life), but unfortunately, I think the time has come.”
Many churches like Christ Church UMC, have been making the difficult decision to close permanently because their membership isn’t sufficient to sustain their operation financially.
After declining for years, the First Presbyterian Church of Des Moines in Iowa, which had been in operation since 1848, held their last service in April because they were unable to recover from the membership losses they suffered during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We were declining and the pandemic killed us,” said Kathy Smith, who had been a member of the church since 1984.
Last December, the 221-year-old First Presbyterian Church in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania, permanently closed its doors on Christmas Eve due to declining membership and attendance.
The Potter’s House of Denver also announced plans in December to sell its $12.2 million megachurch in Arapahoe County, Colorado, and go completely virtual due to declining donations amid the pandemic.
Christ Church UMC member Mabel Johnson, who is 92, was sad to see her church close but she has accepted that she has come to the end of an era.
“I was brought up in the Advent Christian Church in Westfield. That got sold, and now this,” she told Mass Live. “I guess when you are my age all you do is say goodbye to things, to people and things.”
Take action! Resist the assault from the rainbow mafia:Russian Faith Website Attacked by Pro-LGBT Megacorporation - Help Us Fight Back! Who works for Russian Faith? Click to see our photos:Meet the Team - Russian Faith Now in Seven Languages!