The Quechee Community Church is closing, and the church building will be sold.
People in the Upper Valley have been attending The Quechee Community Church since 1873. But now rising maintenance costs, and a steady drop in membership are forcing the church to close, and a final service was held on Christmas Eve.
Word went out just a few weeks ago that after months of trying to come up with a plan, the Quechee Community Church would be selling its 142-year-old building.
A typical Sunday service would draw fewer than two dozen, longtime members say, but on Christmas Eve the sanctuary was filled to capacity, as Quechee came out to say goodbye to its church.
Rob Robertson is a member of the church council and he says the costs associated with keeping an old building maintained and heated were just too great.
And after too many tag sales and church functions that fell on the shoulders of a handful of dedicated members, Robertson says the church simply ran out steam.
"In any church it's usually three or four percent of the people doing 90 percent of the actual work," Robertson says. "But here, that three or four percent of 25 people is just a couple of people."
Pat Lewis has been a member of the church since 1956, and she remembers scores of young families congregating at the Main Street building.
She remembers weekend weddings, Sunday school packed with children and a church that was the center of a bustling village.
But Quechee has gone through a transformation since Lewis was one of those many young members taking part in church activities.
Now, the church looks over a real estate office for a high-end residential development and a gleaming commercial district, and the people moving into Quechee have not made this church a part of their lives.
And Lewis says the weekend weddings and social events have been replaced by too many funerals of passing church members.
"A village without a church; it's very hard to accept that, and it's rough," says Lewis. " But maybe it's just a trend of the times. But it is sad."
Throughout the Christmas Eve service, visiting minister Anne Roberston evoked memories of the building and of the church's history.
And for one final time, at the end of the service, candles filled the sanctuary with light and the congregation sang.
The Quechee Community Church will be put up for sale, though church council chairman Lannie Collins says he hopes to continue worshipping, as a congregation, in another site.
"The main objective, that we as a church council have, is ... to keep the congregation together," Collins says. "It doesn't matter where you go to worship. Worship can take place any place. This building holds a lot of memories, but it's just a building."
The church will hold a special day of remembrance on Sunday Jan. 10, and then shut its doors forever.