127-year-old Apollo church set to become new borough building
After 127 years, First United Church of Christ in Apollo will close its doors with a final service Aug. 25.
But the spirit that forged several major construction projects at the site will live on as the building is in the process of being donated to the borough for its new borough building.
“It’s sad to see any church close, but at least it will be put to good use,” Mayor Cindee Virostek said. “The new borough office moving into the church will be a great opportunity to save the taxpayers money.”
Borough council recently decided to accept the building donation. Details for the transition of borough offices are pending.
Parishioners are saying goodbye to their house of worship. Some have been members for more than 50 years.
“It’s really a sad thing,” said treasurer and organist Bonnie Kautz, who has been attending the church since 1965. “We have to have a positive attitude. Maybe something better is waiting for us.”
Her husband, Dr. John Kautz, the president of Apollo Council, has been attending the church since 1964. He has been helping with ministerial duties at St. Jacobs in South Bend, Armstrong County, about 15 miles away.
The couple says they will find another church. They’ve been churchgoers all of their lives, and they aren’t going to stop now.
“It’s a way of life,” Bonnie Kautz said.
The Kautzes are among four to six active parishioners at the Protestant church, which has about 70 members on the rolls.
The church brought in a consultant three years ago who concluded there were too many churches for the area’s small population, according to Kautz.
An honorarium from a longtime parishioner made it possible for the church to be able to afford handing off the building to the borough, Kautz said.
Despite the closure, Bonnie Kautz said many memories will remain, mentioning Sunday school kids and teachers making homemade pies in the church’s spacious basement kitchen, the women’s fellowship, the church bazaar, the Church Women United.
“I liked meeting all the other people,” she said. “I just loved knowing what was going on in the community.”
Regular services over
The last regular service was held last fall.
The church lost its pastor a year ago. Given the church’s small size, Bonnie Kautz knew they weren’t going to get another one.
Like a favorite seat at the dining room table, a worn section of red carpet between the pew and kneeler, third from the back to the right of the altar, is testament to the dedication of the Church of Christ parishioners.
The last survivor of the family that favored that pew space bequeathed enough money to help the church in its final days.
Bonnie Kautz said another parishioner, a 95-year-old woman who recently moved into a personal care home, told her, “Don’t close or I will die.”
The First United Church of Christ began as a mission of the Reformed Denomination, commissioned by the Westmoreland Classis in 1892. John N. Naly, a theological seminary student from Lancaster, successfully organized the mission.
The cornerstone for the church was laid in 1893 at the corner of Warren Avenue and South Second Street in Apollo. Eventually, the growing membership sought a bigger church, so they demolished the original building.
A new church was dedicated on the site in 1932 but, because of the Great Depression, only the basement was built.
The first floor wasn’t added until 1960.
Mary Ann Thomas is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Mary at 724-226-4691, [email protected] or via Twitter .