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Every denomination needs one of these...

One of the oldest churches in the UCC set to close

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

This is a genuine tragedy and a loss for the United Church of Christ. From Boston.com:
SPRINGFIELD, Mass. --A Springfield Congregational church founded in 1637 has voted to disband.

The 70-1 vote by members early this week came as the Old First Church faced a dwindling membership and increasing building expenses.

Now, members will seek to sell the building, located in downtown Springfield.

The church was once a stop on the Underground Railroad and hosted statesman Daniel Webster and abolitionist John Brown. The body of President John Quincy Adams lay in state there in 1848.

The 150-member church tried for months to come up with a survival strategy, but ultimately couldn't do it. The church shuts down Jan. 1.

Its pastor, Rev. J. Thomas Gough, said the decision to close comes with "gut-wrenching sorrow."
The church is also listed as an "Open and Affirming" church according to UCC.org.

The vote to close prompted this editorial today from The Republican, the Western Massachusetts daily newspaper:
The annual cost of heat, utilities and building maintenance had reached $400,000, far beyond the means of the 150 congregation members. We hope and trust that the Greater Springfield community will find a way to rescue this historic building. It's the soul in the heart of the city.
Hopefully, at some point, saving churches like Old First Church will have greater viability within the UCC than a Conference Minister chasing phony conspiracy theories of church stealing.
posted by UCCtruths, Tuesday, October 02, 2007


$400,000 a year in maintainence? There's something wrong with this picture. Still, it makes one thing obvious, we are slaves to our old, historic, beautiful buildings. We can't be free in Christ (Galatians 5:1) if we allow ourselves to be yoked to our buildings.
commented by Anonymous Anonymous, 11:47 AM  
This is tragic for such a historic congregation. I agree with the previous comment that reminds us that the building is not the reason we worship.

My community has a Methodist church with a historic marble building that was burned by a self proclaimed satanic arsonist. The congregation claims 200 on the books with 100 in regular attendance. The insurance policy is not enough to rebuild the building. There is pressure locally to rebuild because of its historic value but no money to contribute from secular sources. The church had a city street blocked off for 6 months because one of the exterior walls was in danger of collapsing. The building was built in the mid-1800s for a congregation of 500. It has huge steeples, spires and bell towers of the type that were built in that era. More church than a congregation of 100 or even 200 needs. To shore up the walls so they could buy time to make a decision is costing them $189,000. They are looking at rebuilding on the same site with the historic marble but a different building. Then they had the cost of gentle deconstruction to preserve the marble so they could reuse it to consider. They also are looking at rebuilding at another location and selling their current lot. You can imagine all the options.

They have a lot of pressure by local preservationists to restore the building. Of course they don't have to pay the bills that would come with that. I don't envy their position.

It is a dying congregation and they are faced with a terrible situation.
commented by Anonymous mia j, 10:37 AM  
Why should we bother trying to "save" churches? Obviously, in the marketplace of ideas, Christian mythology has lost to science and reason. We should rejoice at the decline of Christianity -- not fret over it.
commented by Anonymous Anonymous, 7:55 PM  
Yes, $400,000/year is too much for a small congregation to bear, but why not sell the building and maintain the congregation somewhere else? Is there no other space that could be rented? Or is the idea to bolster the congregations of other churches (which are probably also beleaguered with big expensive buildings).

As an example of a creative arrangement, my church (St. Matthew UCC in Baltimore) was recently lucky enough to sell our building (a beautiful cathedral church) to the Maryland State Boychoir. As part of the sale agreement, we have a lease with them and now can stay for the next 50+ years.
commented by Blogger Douglas, 10:12 AM  

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