- Brett Turner Contributing Writer
A Springfield church is about to close its doors after 133 years.
Highlands United Church of Christ, 1910 St. Paris Pike, will celebrate its history with a service of closure as part of its final worship service at 3 p.m. Sunday. The public is invited to attend.
Declining attendance, attrition, deaths, people moving away from the church and fewer younger families joining are among the reasons trustees made the decision, according to Jan Kushmaul, Highlands’ vice moderator and a 43-year member.
“We believe it’s the changing times,” she said. “There seems to be a trend away from the church these days. A lot of churches are closing.”
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Highlands has about 25 active members and averaged nine to 12 at recent services with just a part-time pastor.
In 2013, the congregation voted for Highlands to become an inclusive church that accepts all nationalities, races, abilities and economic status.
“We welcome all people as children of good and have been a safe place to be an open and affirming church,” Kushmaul said. “That is not the reason we lost members.”
The church began as the Lagonda Congregational Christian Church on Lagonda Avenue in 1884 before moving to South Limestone Street in the mid 1950s, and changed its name to Highlands Community Church.
In 1974, Highlands merged with Snowhill United Church of Christ at the current location, taking the Highlands name and the Snowhill address.
Even if community members had never attended the church, they may be familiar with the Highlands Café, a fixture for hungry attendees of the Clark County Fair for 62 years.
The church has also supported several area food pantries and Interfaith Hospitality Network, and the youth members helped Project Jericho and On-The-Rise services.
After settlement of the Highlands estate, all assets will be distributed to various area non-profit services that reflect the church’s mission.
“The denomination doesn’t tell us what to do with the funds and we want to help families,” Kushmaul said. “We’re still working on it, and it will depend on when the church building sells.”
Sunday’s Service of Closure will be conducted by the Rev. Carl Robinson, Interim Association Pastor of the Southern Ohio-Northern Kentucky Association of the Ohio Conference of the United Church of Christ, with Pastor Avery Sledge assisting. Music will be provided by Kent Brooks.
Anyone who at any time has been associated with the Snowhill or Highlands churches is encouraged to attend.
“Everything has a lifespan, a time for growing and a time for dying,” Kushmaul said. “Something has to end. We see a door closing, but will see things continue in the community.”