Stonington church closing after almost 130 years

Published: May. 25, 2022 at 6:43 PM EDT
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STONINGTON, Maine (WABI) - Built in 1893, the Stonington United Methodist Church will be closing its doors next month.

Church members voted in April to close the church citing a dwindling population on the island and membership numbers that are too small to keep it open.

Members of the United Methodist Church in Stonington say while the pandemic didn’t help, it’s not the only reason the church is nearing its final Sunday service after almost 130.

“The congregation, as it gets older, people have died, people have moved away. 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-over with people from away coming and buying homes that are really basically open for six or eight weeks of the year,” said Evelyn Duncan, Stonington selectman and church trustee.

“This for many years was a thriving church. There was a 150, up to 200 people. Sunday school was full. Right now, there are about seven or eight in the core congregation, all of whom are over the age of 80,” said Susan Davenport, Stonington United Methodist Church pastor.

A March Gallup poll showed that less than half of Americans consider themselves to be church members, down 70%from the year 2000. When Gallup started tracking that data in 1937, the number of people in the United States who said they belong to a church was nearly three quarters of the population.

“This is happening all across Maine and all across denominational lines, all these little churches,” said Davenport.

Once a community hub, members here know saying goodbye won’t be easy.

“It’s breaking my heart. I’ve been a pastor in the United Methodist Church in New England for thirty-five years. I’ve never closed a church in thirty-five years. I don’t know how to close churches,” said Davenport.

In small communities like Stonington, this church is more than just a building for gathering in prayer.

“Some of my parishioners were baptized here as babies. They grew up in this church, they were married in this church, they baptized their kids in this church, they’ve had the funerals for their spouses in this church. I mean, there’s a lot of history here, and that’s hard to let go of,” said Davenport.

The last service for the Stonington United Methodist Church is scheduled for Sunday, June 26, at 10 a.m.

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