Christ Episcopal Church in Avon has announced it will be closing its doors for good at the end of this month.
According to Marge Griffin, senior warden at Christ Church, 35 members in good standing of the church voted at a special meeting on Nov. 18 to dissolve the parish. Years of declining membership, financial issues and changing demographics were given as the reasons for the closure.
David Paye, Christ Church assistant treasurer, said that in the beginning of 2012, membership totaled 110 people. That number has dropped throughout the year to below 100 people, he said. Griffin said 64 members left in 2010-2011 – many of them with children in search of a church with more young families. At one point in the church’s history, said Karin Hamilton, director of communications for the Episcopal Diocese of Connecticut, membership was as high as 223 families.
All church property will be held in trust for the Diocese and in turn, for The Episcopal Church. Hamilton said it’s “too early to make decisions about what will happen to the building,” located on Harris Road, near West Avon Road.
A private nursery school that operates there will stay for the length of its contract, which ends in June 2012. Two AA groups and a yoga class that have been meeting at the church will no longer convene there. In addition, the monthly “Rhythms of Grace” worship service for children with special needs will move to St. John’s in New Hartford.
The Rev. Halsey (“Chip”) Stevens III retired as priest-in-charge last December. Rev. Peter Stebinger has been serving as chaplain for Christ Church since then.
Church Founded in 1845
Founded in 1845 in a section of Farmington that eventually became Unionville, the congregation met in people’s homes until a church was built in 1871. In the 1960s, the land and building were sold to the town of Farmington, and the congregation bought property in Avon. The parish hall in Avon was completed in 1964 and a contemporary nave and sanctuary were built in 1969.
Six framed historic stained glass windows from the original Unionville church building will be returned to the Unionville Historical Society.
The Episcopal Diocese of Connecticut said the parish has been working with a diocesan consultant since early last year to prepare for this event.
“The lay and ordained leadership of Christ Church, Avon have been incredibly faithful in approaching the decision to close,” said the Rt. Rev. Ian T. Douglas, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Connecticut said in a press release. “It has been very difficult to consider leaving a place that has meant so much to so many people for so long.”
"This is very sad for me," said Griffin, who has been a member of Christ Church her entire life, first in Unionville and then in Avon. Her family has marked an entire lifecycle of events at that church, including marriages and burials.
"I don't know what I will do now," she added.
There are Episcopal churches in nearby Farmington and Collinsville, noted Hamilton.
Christ Church will hold Christmas services on Christmas Eve, with a family service at 5:30 p.m. But the traditional Christmas pageant will not be held.
The church has announced a closing service for their last Sunday worship, on Sunday, Dec. 30, at 3 p.m. This will be followed by a reception, to which all are invited.