End of an era for Wesley United Church

 

By Ron Giofu

After over two centuries of existence, Wesley United Church is no more.

The church held its last service June 25 with declining numbers being a reason the church has closed.

“We didn’t have critical mass anymore,” explained Rev. Murray Rounding. “There was not enough people or money to keep the church going.”

Rounding said the congregation experienced a “significant decrease in attendance and participation over the past few years” and the congregation determined it is no longer feasible to keep the doors open.

“In March of this year the congregation voted to request permission from Essex Presbytery to disband and that permission has been granted,” said Rounding.

Rev. Murray Rounding stands outside Wesley United Church. The final service at the church was held June 25.

Rev. Murray Rounding stands outside Wesley United Church. The final service at the church was held June 25.

While their rolls show more people, the actual church attendance was far fewer than that, he added.

“We were only averaging about 15 on a Sunday,” said Rounding.

According to Rounding, about 225 years ago the first protestant worship service in the Amherstburg area was held at the home of Simon Girty south of town.

“Out of that the Methodist church found a home in Amherstburg. In 1925 the Methodist Church of Canada and some of the Presbyterian Church came together to form the United Church of Canada and Wesley United Church, Amherstburg was formed. Since then Wesley has had a presence and has held weekly Sunday worship services in a few different locations in Amherstburg.”

The final site for the church was on Middle Side Road, just west of Concession 2 North. Wesley United Church operated out of four other buildings in Amherstburg, including structures at the corner of Richmond and Ramsay Streets, on Seymour St., at the corner of Richmond and Bathurst Streets and at 385 Sandwich St. S.

“Over the years Wesley United Church has been a strong visible presence in the community, welcoming and supporting many community organizations and ministries, including programs for young people and for seniors,” said Rounding. “They have been active in community activities and a wide variety of mission projects. One of the past Moderators of the United Church of Canada, Dr. Anne Squire (nee Park), born in Amherstburg, had her earliest experiences of being a member of a church at Wesley.”

The united church experienced a surge in the 1950’s and 1960’s, Rounding added, including in Amherstburg.

“It was bursting at the seams,” he said.

Buildings became bigger to accommodate the increasing rise in church congregations with Wesley United Church’s Sandwich St. S. building going up in the early 1960’s. As times changed, the building aged and the congregation declined, Wesley United Church sold the site and rented the Middle Side Road facility.

“We’re done leasing at the end of August,” said Rounding. “Now, we’re just packing up. I’m free to look for a new position.”

Those who worshipped at Wesley United Church until the end experienced sadness, Rounding said.

“There are people in this congregation who grew up here and spent their whole lives here,” he stated. “It’s difficult to say goodbye.”

However, it was tough to keep the church going with so few people and not enough money and now people are free to go to another church.

“You don’t want to watch something you love keep on struggling,” Rounding said. “The people that are still here are tired. It’s not good stewardship of money, energy and people. People were getting worn down.”

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