HOPKINS, Minn. (FOX 9) - Many churches have struggled to get parishioners to return for mass after restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic kept many congregations apart. In Hopkins, that might have accelerated the undoing of Mizpah United Church of Christ, which shut its doors for good on Sunday.
"It’s hard to feel it’s a success when a church decides to close," interim legacy pastor Nancy Swanson told FOX 9 after mass on Sunday.
"I think it was folks getting older, the energy it takes to be a vibrant active church is a lot," she later added.
Around since 1888, Mizpah was a second home spiritually for many generations; but more recently the church saw its aging congregation dwindle down to just 12 to 15 people on most weekends. In an "overwhelming vote" on May 22, they decided to move on.
"They just said we want a graceful closing," Swanson explained.
Sunday was their final service, and long-time parishioners packed the room for the first time in a long time, leaving with a piece of the church as many took hymnals, bibles, and other keepsakes with them.
"It’s a sad, but happy day," parishioner David Williams said. "This church meant so much to this community."
"The initial shock is gone, but still sitting there it’s hard to get used to," parishioner Richard Niemann said.
After Sunday’s mass, the congregation gathered for one final meal to close out an emotional day in celebration, rather than mourning.
Swanson says a purchase agreement is in place, and if all goes well, by the end of 2022 things could be wrapped up with a new church possibly moving into the property.