Emotions run deep for final Maple Lake United Church service » Minden Times
Emotions run deep for final Maple Lake United Church service
120 years of history ends in love and heartbreak
By Grace Oborne
The faithful and their families gathered for the last time on a hot Sunday afternoon to fill the pews of the little white church that love and faith had built. The afternoon was spent remembering the countless services and sacraments that have been celebrated for decades.
On Sunday, July 17, Maple Lake United Church held its last service after members voted to disband the congregation on January 30, after 120 years since the new building first congregated.
Reverend Max Ward explained that the main reason for the disbandment was due to lack of attendance and financial support.
“The decline over the years resulted in this January decision to permanently close the church. The church lacked members and friends who attended regularly and contributed to the finances of the church, which prevented it from lasting any longer,” Max said.
During the service, members took turns recounting church milestones and their fondest memories in the church. Longtime member and music director of the church, Deloris Sawyer Bailey, shared what it was like growing up in this congregation with the community of Maple Lake.
“When I was ten, mom and dad decided to move to Maple Lake. Mom and dad didn’t go to church, but mom sent the kids to Sunday school. When I lived in Weston, I attended Sunday school at Weston Baptist Church. I think we went there because it was the closest church to our house. When we moved to Maple Lake, I attended Sunday school at the little white church around the corner,” Deloris said, referring to the church’s location on the 118 freeway and Stanhope Airport Road. “My sister was married at the time, and I don’t remember my brothers going to Sunday school with me. I walked to and from the church in Maple Lake to attend Sunday school. I don’t remember what time Sunday school was, but it was after lunch, and the church service followed right after Sunday school. I usually walked home after Sunday school, and when I left church the pews were filled with families from Maple Lake and West Guilford for Sunday worship.
Christena Barry and her husband, Don, have been members of the church since August 7, 2016. To keep the building forever, the Barrys have often raised funds for the church. The Barrys remember their fundraiser as one of his many memorable moments with the church.
“Don and I also did quite a bit of fundraising for the church. We did a rug sale to raise money for the church where we set up as a store in the basement of the church. , and we had a rug sale. We sold everything at our expense and donated all the money to a small church,” Barry said.
At the service, the congregation sang hymns such as Amazing Grace. They were joined by admired United Church organist Kathleen Owens, who held the position for nearly 65 years. Speaking to The Times after the final service, Owens expressed deep sadness over the church’s closure.
“It’s been years and years, so I’m very sad that the church is closing, but I guess now we need to move on. I’m sad it’s like this,” Kathleen said.
Kathleen was accompanied by Bill Gliddon, longtime organist of St. George’s Anglican Church in Haliburton. Although Bill was never the regular church organist, he was there for the important moments.
“Every year we had a Valentine’s Day concert for the church, which was really neat. They always asked me if I could bring some of my choir from St. George’s to participate, and since Kathleen Owens was the organist there, we of course had a great time. We’ve done this every year,” Bill said.
He thanked Kathleen for her dedication and appreciated their past collaborations.
“I’ve been an organist for 60 years, specifically at St. George’s, but she’s been an organist for over 60 years at Maple Lake United. Together, we go back over a century, well over a century. She was the one who was so loyal there and I definitely want to give her all the credit. I helped her when she needed it.
Loyal members of Maple Lake United mourn the loss of their little white church. For Christena, like many others, the closure of the church has been heavy.
“We are in full mourning because it is like a death. It is a life that has ended, and although we have celebrated the life of the church, the church will no longer be known as we knew it,” she said.
The church’s closure has left congregants at Maple Lake United feeling confused and sad about their next steps.
“I think for a lot of people it’s difficult. For me, I’ve learned to adapt, but some are a little set in their ways. I know that some of the people who have attended church have lived their entire lives in the Maple Lake area. I don’t think other people can’t or won’t fit into another church. It’s because Maple Lake is where their heart is. My heart is in it too,” Deloris said.
Christena is troubled by what she and her husband will do next.
“I get a lot of mixed feelings wondering what’s going to happen. What will be the end result? What will be our decision as to where we will turn for our worship? Will it be worshiping by a river somewhere, under a tree? Will it be worshiping in another church? Who are we going to turn to now? We are not sure yet,” she said.
Max, also being the Worship Leader for Highland Hills United Church, invited everyone to join him in worship and community.
After the final service, the Maple Lake Church family stood outside to hug each other, reminisce about the good times and thank the building for providing them with a safe place to worship.
“How wonderful though, to have met everyone through the church that we met and to have had these people as our church family, including Max. Then for us to be together at the end,” Christena said.
The little white church at the corner of Highway 118 and Stanhope Airport Road was full of life and love for the last service. Many have moved on but have returned to say a final goodbye.