Eau Claire's First Baptist Church holds final service
As First Baptist Church in Eau Claire celebrates 157 years in the community, they're also worshipping for the last time together. The church's membership has shrunk over the years and in January, the congregation voted to discontinue the local church.
"Like many churches in the 1960s and 1970s we began to see diminishing numbers and really since then little by little lost membership and what membership is here now is older,” says Pastor Loyed Arnold.
First Baptist has endured many changes during its history, most recently selling the property to Renew Church. "When you get down to a certain number of people and we were down under 20 on a regular basis, that was when we got serious about realizing we needed to go ahead and do something.” Pastor Arnold says the decision to close the church was a peaceful one.
"Some churches, the fact that they still own the building and they're responsible for it, that creates stress so basically we had no more stress...that’s when we felt now is the time to start slowly but surely making the plans,” says Pastor Arnold.
With 157 years of history, this final day of service is a time for the congregation to reflect on the impact the church has had on the Eau Claire community. “Helping out the children and the schools and also community table has been a big part of this church and we still have people that work here and we still do a lot out in the community,” says Eila Goins of Eau Claire. Goins is a long time member of First Baptist Church. Her late husband once served as pastor of the church for more than a decade.
She says she will miss the people in the congregation the most. Pastor Arnold says he will miss preaching the most, as he’s been the pastor of First Baptist for more than seven years.
Church members say they're grateful for the memories and look forward to sharing their experiences as they join new congregations.