First Christian church to celebrate 125 years, closes in 2022

With less than a month to go to January, the First Christian Church’s faithful face big decisions regarding the two milestones brought by the New Year – the 125th anniversary of the church and its closure.

The historic church will hold its last service in May and will cease all operations by June 30 before the town of Bartlesville takes over the building in an agreement for the church to rent and then donate. of the building for the use of the city.

FCC Reverend Susan Payne, a transitional minister, arrived at the church in 2019 to help its leaders decide whether to redefine its mission or close. In the end, they decided on the scale.

“It wasn’t a single event that caused this, it’s just that over time, like so many churches, the membership starts to decrease and the age of the members starts to increase. … It had gotten to the point where we no longer thought it was a faithful use of the resources that have been entrusted to the church over generations. For having such a big building and a budget that only serves a handful of members, ”Payne said.

Once the decision was made, a timeline was decided – ending in 2022 would see the church turn 125 and the congregation, many of whom grew up in church, could celebrate one last Christmas and Easter at FCC.

Until the final service, there will still be regular Sunday services, which currently have around 20 attendees, Payne said. There is also a long list of things to do before closing, she said, including planning what the final service will look like and figuring out what to do with the furniture and equipment in the building used to perform the services.

Some items will be sold at a real estate sale, while others that could be considered historical will be donated to the Bartlesville History Museum. A few items, such as a quilt made for the 100th anniversary of CAF and church communion clothing, which may have sentimental value to members, will be available for purchase. Laws regarding the religious and nonprofit status of churches have an impact on what can be given or sold to members.

“It has really been a thoughtful process. We’re trying to decide what things need special attention, ”Payne said.

Then there are the finances of the church – large endowments that will not be needed when FCC is no longer operational. The funds will be distributed to other government departments and nonprofits across Bartlesville, she said.

“That way, even though we don’t have a congregation, we still minister with the resources we have,” Payne said.

While there is still much planning for the logistical side of the church’s closure, Payne said the tight-knit congregation is also dealing with the loss of where she grew up and lived through all major stages of life. – baptisms, weddings, funerals.

After the final service, the congregation will disperse to the local churches that best meet their needs.

“We all know the church is not the building, the people are the church – that’s the old saying. But it’s really hard when you have so many memories associated with a particular place, ”Payne said.

“It’s like death. There is heartbreak there because you are losing something that is really important in your life. But I think the members feel really hopeful now because they feel that the church’s resources are going to be put to good use and that we are going to be able to leave a legacy that will continue the ministry for First Christian.

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