For likely last time, Christmas Eve observed at Albion church

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 25 December 2014 at 12:00 am

United Methodists expect to leave historic site in 2015

Photos by Tom Rivers – Tiffany Crawford lights the candles in the sanctuary for the Christmas Eve service at the Albion First United Methodist Church.

About 100 people attended the Christmas Eve service inside a church built in 1860.

ALBION – It was an emotional service last night for Christmas Eve at the Albion First United Methodist Church. In addition to reflecting on the birth of Jesus Christ, the congregation faced the reality of what it believes will be the group’s final Christmas Eve service in their historic church building.

“This is the first of many lasts we have to endure,” said church member Kim Pritt, who sang with the church choir last night. “Every year we walk out of here on Christmas Eve full of joy and emotion. But tonight it won’t be a pleasant emotion.”

The building needs about $1 million in roof repairs. The congregation doesn’t have the money. It has tried for grants but hasn’t found help for the project.

For more than two years it has rented tall wooden pillars to support the roof. That isn’t a long-term solution and those pillars are costing the church about $15,000 a year.

The congregation expects to leave the site in 2015. The board will meet with denomination leaders on Jan. 12 to discuss if the church will be sold at an auction or put on the market, or if it will be torn down.

Marie Follet leads the Joyful Good Shepherd Ringers during last night’s service.

The bell ringers are perched up high in a loft by the sanctuary.

The church is one of seven church buildings that are part of the Courthouse Square, a district that is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

In 1914, the United Methodist church reoriented the sanctuary. When that happened, some members didn’t like that lower beams that helped support the roof truss system were more visible. The church removed the lower beams. A century later, the roof is in danger of collapse from a truss system that needs to be totally rebuilt.

The Rev. Jack Laskowski leads the Christmas Eve service last night.

The congregation has tried to make the best of the wooden pillars in the sanctuary, decorating them for the holiday season.