Two CT Conference churches held their last worship services and closed their doors in recent months. Ivoryton Congregational Church held its last worship on Dec. 30, and Waterford Congregational Church held its last worship September 30.
Earlier in 2018, members of Ivoryton decided to sell their building and begin worshipping at the Essex Congregational Church
, holding a separate worship service before the Essex worship on Sundays. In November, the church’s uniquely styled building finally sold to a developer who hopes to convert the building to condominiums and office space.
According to Ivoryton pastor the Rev. John Van Epps, who retired just after the final worship in December, the church’s attendance has decreased since moving. The church was also relying on an endowment to support a majority of its budget. The remaining members knew this was not sustainable.
“They didn’t want to dwindle the endowment down to nothing,” said Van Epps. “They wanted to leave a legacy.”
Though not involved in the decisions going forward, Van Epps says that members of Ivoryton have expressed a desire to support many local non-profits and scholarships and will likely distribute the remaining endowment in several directions.
In 2013, the Second Congregational Church of New London transferred ownership of its building to another church in New London
and moved to Waterford where they began sharing space with the Crossroads Presbyterian Church. Shortly after, the church changed its name to Waterford Congregational Church. Waterford’s former pastor the Rev. Matt McCaffrey said the church tried several new initiatives to re-energize after the move, including investing in some video equipment to enable live streaming of services, but the numbers continued to shrink. The church recognized the trend and decided it was time to close.
The congregation held three holiday worship services in September, celebrating Christmas, Easter and Pentecost on September 15th
respectively. September 30 was the last worship service of the church. The church voted in October to dissolve by the end of the year.
“We knew we would not be together through the full church year,” said McCaffrey, “and we wanted to celebrate the great festivals of the church as a kind of closing act of worship.”
Waterford decided to donate the new video equipment to the North Madison Congregational Church, where McCaffrey is now the interim minister, in the hopes that the shoreline church can carry on the video ministry. McCaffrey says the church also had a strong connection with Silver Lake Conference Center and intends to give some of the remaining assets as a gift to the conference’s outdoor ministry site.
“’For everything there is a season’,” says CT Conference Minister the Rev. Kent Siladi. “For several churches in the Connecticut Conference, they have made the difficult and faithful decision to end their ministries as a congregation and to give thanks to God for the ways in which the faithful have lived out their ministries through these local churches. In these instances the church that is ending its ministry often asks itself, ‘What will be our legacy gift? In that way the church continues to make an impact through their stewardship of the assets remaining. We are grateful for the impact that these churches have made, for their witness and for their lasting impact made through their legacy gifts.”