By Stan Friedman
WILTON, CT (May 23, 2013) – Louise Stabile had played the piano at United Covenant Church on Sunday mornings for 75 years, so playing the last notes before the church closed its doors permanently last month was especially emotional.
“It was very, very hard,” Stabile says. “It was a difficult day for all of us. It feels like you’re losing a family in a way.”
United was formed in 1975 from the merger of East Norwalk and Georgetown Covenant churches, which had formed in 1889. Stabile had served in all three, not just playing piano, but doing about every other possible form of ministry as well.
Like her parents, she raised all of her children in the Covenant church as well. Most of the people who were attending when the church closed had family stretching back for generations.
About 15 people attended on Sunday mornings. Stabile believes the decision to close was the right one, and because the congregation voted to be a “Living Legacy” congregation, “closing the church doesn’t close the work,” she says.
Assets and money used from selling the property will be used to plant other congregations. “That makes a big difference in helping with the pain,” she says.
United Covenant was packed with friends and former members for the final service on April 21. “People came from all around,” Stabile says.
Also attending were former pastors Gordy Miller and Eric Hillabrant as well as several interim ministers. The church celebrated its many years of ministry with a final banquet on the Friday night before the final Sunday service.
Earl Dunbar, who has served as the interim pastor for the past two years, says the church could have continued for another year, but the members believed it was more important to continue their ministry by helping other churches get started.
“This is God’s church, and it’s hard in our culture to understand that God may be calling a church to close,” says Dunbar. “That doesn’t mean people aren’t sad or upset.”
Since there is no other Covenant church in close proximity, Stabile has started to attend a local Methodist church. “But I’ll still keep reading the Covenant Companion and using the Missionary Prayer Calendar,” she says. “I will always be a Covenanter.”