New Jerusalem United Church of Christ, after a long presence in the Rockland Township community, closed its doors for the last time Sunday.
About 100 people, including area pastors, former members, their families and others gathered at the church, 33 Lyons Road, to honor the life and work of the congregation.
Membership had dwindled over the years, with fewer than two dozen people still regularly attending services.
At the beginning of the service, the Rev. Corrine Dautrich, who has been supply pastor at New Jerusalem since January, said God is still speaking and the congregation is still listening.
“As sad as it is that this congregation will no longer be worshipping in this place and that the doors will be closed after today,” Dautrich said, “it’s important to know that the doors, on Monday, will be open to new life.”
New Jerusalem UCC had been in a union relationship with New Jerusalem Lutheran Church, but that union dissolved in 1997. New Jerusalem UCC, whose history dates to 1841, moved to its present location in 1998.
The congregation voted in October to hold a final worship service and to transfer ownership of the property — for legal fees and settlement costs — to The Real Church, a nondenominational congregation that has been meeting at the Dunn Community Center in Exeter Township for a little over a year.
The new congregation will hold its first service in the building Sunday at 10 a.m.
Those in attendance opened New Jerusalem’s final worship service with the hymn “For the Beauty of the Earth.”
Four of the church’s previous pastors shared their memories and offered encouragement in the midst of sadness.
In a service segment listed as “Passing the Symbols of the Church,” Dautrich walked around the front of the sanctuary with the Rev. Earl Wise, pastor of The Real Church, to formally acknowledge that the symbols and furniture would now serve the work of the new congregation.
They moved from the cross to the baptismal font to the pulpit, and finally to the altar, saying a few words at each point about the meaning of the symbol.
“Although the building’s name will change and some other things will change, there’s one thing that will remain the same,” Wise said, “and that is that the spirit of God is in this place.”
Daniel Smith, 86, and Gloria Smith, 85, of Rockland Township have been part of the New Jerusalem congregation since before the unified church dissolved in 1997. They plan to come back next week to attend The Real Church.
Jean Folk, 66, of Alsace Township was a New Jerusalem member for about 20 years. She no longer regularly attends, but was happy another congregation would be using the building.
“I’m glad it’s not going to be torn down,” she said.