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Aurora’s Oldest Church Prepares To Close

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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) – Over nearly two centuries, the oldest church in Aurora has survived a powerful windstorm and an arson fire.

But now, WBBM Newsradio 780′s Regine Schlesinger reports after 174 years, the west suburban city’s very first church is now getting ready for its last service.

Housed in a majestic Gothic-style building at 60 S. Lincoln Ave. in Aurora, the First United Methodist Church was founded in 1837 by Aurora pioneer Samuel McCarty.

Its membership peaked in the 1960s at nearly 1000 but now is down to just 27, so the church is closing.

LISTEN: Newsradio 780′s Regine Schlesinger reports


Shirley Roesch and her husband, John, are longtime members.

“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 told CBS 2′s Suzanne Le Mignot in February.

The strong bonds and feelings persist as the last day for the church draws closer.

“He was baptized there and went to Sunday school there. We met at Aurora College and we were married there,” Shirley Roesch said. “We’ve been hoping we could be buried from there but, it’s not going to happen.”

Two of the Roesches’ daughters, a granddaughter and a grandson were also married at the church.

Roesch says the few remaining members have been struggling to keep the church going, but they can’t do it any longer.

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

So on June 26, it will hold its final service at which the church bell will toll 17 times, once for each decade of its existence.

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