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Knowlesville congregation, with sadness, says goodbye to church building

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 20 December 2019 at 8:33 am

Congregation will continue to have events at fellowship hall, hold services at Millville

Photos by Tom Rivers: The Rev. Sara Merle, pastor of the United Methodist churches in Knowlesville and Millville from 2000 to 2005, attended a deconsecration service for the Knowlesville church building on Saturday. That service was a chance for people to say goodbye to the building and reflect on friendships and major life moments through the church.

KNOWLESVILLE – The congregation at the former Knowelsville United Methodist Church gathered on Saturday to deconsecrate the church building on Knowlesville Road.

The building needs capital improvements – a new furnace and handicapped accessibility, and is for sale. Saturday’s service declared the site is no longer and church building and has been released “for any honorable use.”

The congregation continues to use the fellowship hall across the street for Sunday school and events, including its popular pie shop, apple festival and fish fries.

The congregation also is part of the United Methodist Church of Abundant Harvest, which holds its services at 11 a.m. on Sundays in Millville.

The church at 3622 Knowlesville Rd. is for sale. It needs some capital improvements that church members found daunting.

Saturday’s service was like a reunion, with former church pastors coming back for the special service.

Sara Merle was the church pastor from 2000 to 2005. One of her first duties as pastor in Knowlesville was blessing the church’s beef booth, which church volunteers have continued to run during the Orleans County 4-H Fair for a week in late July.

She praised the church for its outreach ministries, and creative ways to connect with the community. Merle, who now attends a church in Hilton as a parishioner, said she is grateful for the chance to lead the Knowlesville and Millville congregations for the five years.

“It only enhanced my journey of faith,” she said.

Chris Wylie was the church’s pastor beginning in 2013. He led efforts to bring multi-media technology into the Millville site and pushed for the pie shop at the Knowlesville fellowship hall. Wylie, who has cerebral palsy, guided the Knowlesville and Millville congregations into a merger, effective Jan. 1, 2015, as the United Methodist Church of the Abundant Harvest.

Wylie now lives in Lewiston.

“Sometimes with ministry you don’t know where God will take you,” he said. “Ministry isn’t about the location where you are, it’s about the people coming together.”

Erica Wanecski shared how the church has long tried to build people’s faith while having fun.

“Throughout the years they’ve had their arms open to the community in a wonderful way,” she said. “It’s a building we won’t have anymore. But we’re going to go on with our arms open like we have through the years.”

Phil Lilley was married at the Knowlesville church about 30 years ago. He said the church has offered many children’s programs and activities for the community.

The congregation also has been fortunate to have so many “fantastic pastors,” he said.

Brenda Busch spoke during the service. She lives close by the church and has been attending frequently since 2005.

“I wanted to find a church where I feel comfortable,” she said. “Here everyone is friendly.”

Lorraine Luckman said the church has been part of her life for many years. Two of her children were married at the church building.

“It was always family,” she said about the congregation. “I just felt at home in that building.”

The Rev. Garry McCaffery, who became pastor July 1, acknowledged it can be difficult for a congregation to say goodbye to a building that feels like a home. He said the Knowlesville site has “provided refuge and hope for God’s people.”

The congregation will continue to carry out a noble mission.

“God continues to bless, continues to move and work among the people who gather in this place,” he said.

About 50 people attended the deconsecration service at the Knowlesville fellowship hall for the church building across the street.

The read the following declaration of purpose:

“The time has come for this congregation of Christ’s holy Church, under God’s leadership, to take leave of the church building. It has been consecrated for the ministry of God’s Holy Word and Sacraments. It has provided refuge and comfort for God’s people. It has served well our holy faith. It is fitting, therefore, that we should take our leave of this consecrated house, lifting up our hearts in thanksgiving for this common store of memories.”

The group then read this declaration of deconsecration:

“The building located at 3622 Knowlesville Road, having been consecrated and named the United Methodist Church of the Abundant Harvest, Knowlesville location, formerly known as the Knowlesville United Methodist Church, together with the land on which it stands and all objects remaining in it, we now deconsecrate and release for any honorable use. We declare that it is no longer the place of meeting of a United Methodist Congregation.”

Robin Watts said the church is a welcoming community.

Nate Johnidas, an acolyte, extinguishes the candles at the alter. He spoke during the service and thanked the church members for their support over the years.

“I’m thankful to everyone who helped me along the path of my life,” he said.

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