DuBOIS — After today’s worship service at 11 a.m., the Trinity United Methodist Church – the first Protestant church in DuBois – will be closing its doors for good.
“It’s due to a decline in membership,” said the Rev. Melissa Kraus, who has been the church pastor for the last five years. “It’s hard to work and keep together with so few members.”
The church has been in existence in DuBois since 1875, originally a wooden framed structure on East Long Avenue and Church streets. It burned down in 1888 and the new structure was moved to its current location at 54 E. Long Ave.
When Kraus became the pastor, there were about 15 to 20 members – people have talked about memberships of 300 at one time in the history of the church, around the 1960s and 1970s.
“I’ve lost half to death and then built back up,” Kraus said “Then, recently, I lost half, we even lost more due to some pressures.”
About six months ago, Kraus said the remaining members started seriously considering closing. The decision to close this Sunday was just made this month, she said.
“The church has been in a steady decline. We are along with 15,000 churches of all denominations that are closing across the country this year,” said Kraus. “So, we’re not alone.”
District Superintendent James Pond will be at the Sunday worship service which will be followed by the deconsecration.
“At the end of the worship, we will have a blessing for the people as they go off into other denominations, other churches, other parts of their spiritual journey,” Kraus said. “We’re certainly saddened to disperse. But we do so with hope and knowledge that there’s still places for us to worship and ways that we can worship,” said Kraus, who has another appointment.
She is unsure of what will happen to the church building, which is owned by the Western Pennsylvania Conference of The United Methodist Church.
“We also will be closing the parsonage, where we have rented in the past and made available for some disenfranchised people,” Kraus said.
She said members have always had food and food carts available for people that would stop.
“We’ve been a little bit of a gap for folks between food stamps or checks or passing through town. We have done many, and served a lot of people, in very quiet ways. Not masses but, hands full,” Kraus said. “So, unfortunately, that outreach will be gone.”
Longtime member, Barbara Haymaker, said she is “heartbroken” that the church she has attended for 40 years is closing. She doesn’t know where she will go now.
“The point of the United Methodist Church is to make disciples out of disciples,” Kraus said. “I do tend to be more of an educator than an evangelist. But I try to help people to talk about their own experiences with the Divinity and not to let these people or this person tell you who and what God is and how God should affect you.”
“People each have their own story,” Kraus said. “I hope to leave people with that.”