It’s like a Rapture as social media agog after a Pennsylvania church with a 221-year history held its final service to mark its closure at the end of 2021.
A check by Quest Times to fathom the reason behind this startling development reveals that, the said church closed down because of declining membership and attendance.
The First Presbyterian Church of Bellefonte, which is nearly as old as the borough itself, held the final scheduled service on Christmas Eve after having welcomed generations of families over the course of more than two centuries.
“There’s just such a love among this congregation. We’ve all known each other so long and we know each other’s foibles,” church elder Candace Dannaker told the Centre Daily Times.
“I’ll miss our personality, our laughter and our joy in just being together. And, of course, the faith aspect of sharing that with other like-minded people,” he added.
A tree full of ornaments made by the congregation is shown in the sanctuary of the Bellefonte First Presbyterian Church on December 22 2021 in Bellefonte, Pa.
‘From 200 to 25 members’
The church was established in 1800 by the same men who founded Bellefonte in 1795 at a time when there were only 16 states and counted among its members two former Pennsylvania governors.
The church met at the courthouse for almost two decades and then in a stone edifice; the current structure was built shortly after the Civil War.
Dannaker estimated the church had about 40 members before the pandemic, a number that is down to about 25, and had no in-person worship from March 2020 until Easter Sunday.
A member who joined 34 years ago, said, there were about 200 people in attendance then.
Pam Benson, 77, a member for 73 years, said that when she was born during World War II, many businesses were closed Sunday and few events were scheduled.
She also believes that fewer parents have insisted that their children attend services and that churches haven’t always been competitive in recruiting new members.
“It was so different. It was just what you did. Unless you were really sick, it was just what you did,” Benson said.
Social media reacts
In her reaction, a netizen with the handle @SusanHodges took to the comment section of the church on Facebook to express her heartfelts.
According to her, “This saddens me. While I am the pastor’s wife of a Southern Baptist minister, I was raised Presbyterian at my home church first and Calvary Presbyterian in Springfield MO, where many of my maternal grandparents’ families worshipped.”
“Presbyterians are not the only denomination facing closing their doors, many others are suffering the same fate.
“Church is not viewed as important as it was when I was growing up in the 1960s and 1970s.
“And the historical aspect of your foundation closing as I am sure your church is rich with history and a part of the life of Bellefonte,” Susan Hodges added.
Another socialite said, “I’m sorry to read of the closing of lovely church. May God bless you all.”
“I counted 15 people present. That’s more than our church often has in attendance. I don’t see why they have to close,” Ralph Fudge opined.
“Will be praying for you all. There are not many churches still preaching the gospel. Please hang in there. God is with the faithful and He will be with you. Remember if God leads you to it, He and He along will lead you through it. God be with each and everyone of you,” Sybil Hambly stated.