Algonquin Highlands Mayor Carol Moffatt said it was a bittersweet day of mixed emotions as Zion United Church in Carnarvon closed its doors forever Sunday after a nearly 128-year life.
The church is amalgamating with the Highlands Hills Pastoral Charge in Minden. The charge held a 90-minute joint service April 28 to mark the historic closing, followed by a lunch in the Christian Education Building.
During a Litany of Thanksgiving, symbols of the life of the church were presented in one of the most moving parts of the service.
Parishioner Joan Chapple was a living symbol. Her grandfather, A.W. Moore, was a member of the committee appointed to build the church.
He was also one of the first trustees. His mother’s home was used for a social fundraiser and he helped to move logs from Gelert to build the church, that was dedicated on Sunday, Sept. 30, 1891.
Like Chapple, many in the church and education building had had a long association with the place of worship on Highway 35N at East Road.
There were choir members who’d sung in the church – known as the Singing Church – for 70 years. There were former Sunday school teachers and Boy Scout leaders.
There were council members, past and present, United Church Women and the faithful. Property committee chair Barb Walford Davis laid a hammer, saw and nails as part of the symbol-laying.
She was credited with having “treated this building as if it were her second home.”
Sunday school teacher, Barbara Braker, took people down memory lane, to a time when there was no paved highway, lots of trees, no cars, only horses and buggies, with few inhabitants.
“They decided to build a house on this spot to gather together, to come together like we are now as a family. We take our memories with us as we continue our journey with Highlands Hills United Church,” she said.
Moffatt said those forefathers of that first Methodist Church in Carnarvon would be thrilled their church was still standing after nearly 128 years but saddened by the day as well.
She noted the long history, not just as a church, but a place for gatherings, entertainment, weddings, baptisms and funerals, not to mention the United Church Women serving “no end of tea” and pies.
She talked about how the church had survived the great fire of 1952 following a lightning strike.
The land is being severed so the church and hall can be sold while the township will maintain the cemetery.
Moffatt added that Zion would become part of a future exhibition at the Stanhope Museum.
Licensed lay worship leader, Debbie Sherwin, said “for many of us, Zion had been a faith community house for many years.”
Rev. Max Ward said decreasing resources, both financial and human, had led to change.
He talked about increasing upkeep costs for an aging building. He said some parishes do not address their problems “but you are not a congregation that refuses to change.”
He said change is not easy and brings anxiety, fear, loss, grief and pain. However, he encouraged the Zion parishioners to have faith and to pray. Like any new relationship, he said “it will take time, energy, presence, commitment and faith.”