Aurora Church Closing After 174 Years

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.

  • Mary Mieno

    Hi, My name is Mary Mieno and inside that beautiful church is our Daycare center that I have worked for at least 14 yrs throughout my life time. I always went to the fellowship room during my 1 hour break and played on the baby grand piano. Most of my songs that I wrote ,was created in that room and on that piano. It was a place where I could find peace, where I could pray for my family and friends. Joan Cunnea, was our awesome daycare director, who we loved so much!!! She made our daycare center special and made it our home a way from home. We enjoyed going to work and we enjoyed her very much. She too, is now retired and Oh,,,,, How we Miss Her so very much!!!! Thank You Joan and Betty for all your hard work and dedication. We will always remember you and the memories we had with you inside that church!!!!

  • HillRunner

    It’s a shame that more churches don’t actively recruit for new members. I read that the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland is fading as well. There really are enough people out there in need of some spiritual support that a sincere effort will bring to the churches.

    I used to think that the enemy of religion was the criminals, the dope dealers, and the like. I was wrong.

    The enemy of churches is the rising tide of comedians, Hollywood types, and even singers, who make others think that religion is worthless. When they show a religious person as a hypocrite or criminal, that is their goal. They want to make someone out there doubt his/her church, or make someone dislike talking to you about God.

    The enemy of religion is the constant scoffers who have the public ear.

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