KINGSTON — This Sunday for the final time the Whisler Presbyterian Church in Kingston will hold its weekly church service.
The final service starts at 9:30 a.m. but that won’t be the final call as members plan to gather the following week, on Sept. 8 at 2 p.m. for a celebration of the church and its members.
Marcia Speakman, a former elder of the church and member for 45 years said the church is closing due to a lack of membership. The membership has been gathering since 1869, more than 160 years.
“Our attendance each week is between eight and 13 people,” she said. “It’s because we’ve lost a lot of members to age and we’ve not been able to bring in new members.”
The Rev. Don Frank, who has been a member of the church since 2000 and has been pastor for nearly seven years, said the deed to the current property was in 1887.
“We kind of anticipated this happening,” he said. “The former pastor showed me an article one Sunday about rural churches closing. This was no shock to us as it was a long time coming. It’s part of the demographic changes that are happening with young people wanting to move out of the immediate area.”
Speakman also said they’ve previously held fish fry and chili supper events but those too are a thing of the past.
“We’re just not physically able to do it because of the age of our members,” Speakman commented.
The Rev. Frank said they’ve had an aging congregation for several years now, citing one member who died at 100 years old.
“We’ve had other people who grew up in the area where church was always a part of the weekly rhythm you might say,” he added.
The Rev. Frank commented that the members of the church are friendly, perhaps even so much so it’s over the top.
“It’s worked out very well,” the pastor said. “I’ve told one member that’s gone there his entire life, Charlie Parker, that we benefited from it more than the congregation did. It’s been a real blessing.”
Speakman said they’ve since run the church on donations and bequeathments from members that have died and have moved services to a more recent addition to the church from the main hall to save on heating costs.
“The heating cost so much that we moved services to the back room we added several years ago,” she said.
The Rev. Frank said they’ve had some help with the process of the church, even if both he and his wife still haven’t had it sink in yet.
“We haven’t really come to grips with all of it yet,” he said. “There’s no manual for this when it happens. We’re very much being helped by the Presbytery of Scioto Valley and Jeannie Harsh. She has accrued the help of Bill Lucas who has gone through this with another church. The help we’re receiving was based on prior experience. That’s been a real godsend.”
Speakman said anyone wishing to attend the celebration on Sept. 8 should RSVP by calling 740-497-8275. The church is located at 11486 Haysville Road in Kingston.
“When you can’t bring in new members you have to close, new members are important,” she said. “I’m sad to see it go.”
Frank said he’s also sad to see the church go; however, the members have decided they’re going to continue to gather for prayer once a month.
“We’re planning on meeting once a month at a local restaurant to continue our fellowship and we often share prayer requests,” the reverend concluded. “Prayer has been a big part of our ongoing activity there.”