Closure of Stonington Church after nearly 130 years
STONINGTON, Maine (WABI) — Built in 1893, Stonington United Methodist Church will close next month.
Church members voted in April to close the church citing a declining population on the island and too low a membership to keep it open.
Members of The United Methodist Church of Stonington say while the pandemic hasn’t helped, it’s not the only reason the church is nearing its last Sunday service after nearly 130.
“The congregation, as it gets older, people have died, people have moved on. People who graduate from high school go on to college. A lot of times they don’t come back to the island, and the change with people coming from afar and buying houses that are really open for six or eight weeks of the year,” said Evelyn Duncan, Stonington coach and trustee of the church.
“It has been a thriving church for many years. There were 150, up to 200 people. Sunday school was full. Right now there are about seven or eight in the central congregation, all of whom are over 80,” said Susan Davenport, pastor of Stonington United Methodist Church.
A Gallup poll from March showed that less than half of Americans consider themselves members of a church, down 70% from the year 2000. When Gallup started tracking this data in 1937, the number of people in the United States who said they belonged to a church made up nearly three-quarters of the population.
“It’s happening all over Maine and all denominations, all these little churches,” Davenport said.
Once a community center, members here know that saying goodbye won’t be easy.
” It breaks my heart. I have been pastor of The United Methodist Church of New England for thirty-five years. I have never closed a church in thirty-five years. I don’t know how to close churches,” Davenport said.
In small communities like Stonington, this church is more than just a building to gather in prayer.
“Some of my parishioners were baptized here as babies. They grew up in this church, they got married in this church, they baptized their children in this church, they had their spouses’ funerals in this church. I mean, there’s a lot of history here, and it’s hard to forget,” Davenport said.
The last service for Stonington United Methodist Church is scheduled for Sunday, June 26 at 10 a.m.
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