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Aurora Church Closing After 174 Years

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First United Methodist Church in Aurora

First United Methodist Church in Aurora opened its doors in 1837, but will close in June 2011 due to dwindling membership. (Credit: CBS)

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AURORA, Ill. (CBS) – It was around before the Civil War, but soon a venerable Aurora church will close its doors for good.

As CBS 2’s Suzanne Le Mignot reports, after more than 170 years, with an aging congregation and no new people joining, there just weren’t enough members to keep Aurora’s First United Methodist Church going.

“I was a little boy when parents carried me into the church. I’ve been a member there the rest of my life,” 76-year-old church member John Roesch said on Friday.

For Roesch and his wife, Shirley Fisher Roesch, First United Methodist Church in Aurora has been a spiritual home filled with a lifetime memories.

“Three generations of our family have been married there,” she said. “John and I were married there. My two daughters were married there, one granddaughter and one grandson.”

On June 30, Aurora’s first church, as it’s known, will close its doors.

“It’s very, very sad. We’re like a family there and it’s very difficult to think, it’s the end of an era,” Shirley Fisher Roesch said.

The church was founded in 1837. Membership at the majestic church, adorned with ornate stained glass windows, has been dwindling – from nearly 900 members when the Roesches were married there in the 1950s, to about 20 members in 2011.

Pastor Roger Zavala said, there aren’t enough donations from that small number of members to keep the church going.

“What happens is it’s a not enough money to pay the bills – gas, electricity. It’s a big building, it’s a heavy load for a small congregation,” Zavala said.

The last service will be held on June 26. On that day, the church bell will be rung 17 times, honoring each decade the church has been in the community.

“There’s going to be some tears shed that day, by everybody, I’m sure,” John Roesch said.

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