For 141 years, the Presbyterian church has held services in Dawn Township. Sunday, that comes to an end.
The congregation in Rutherford is merging with St. Andrew’s in Dresden and selling the building on Lambton Line.
Rev. Andy Cornell, who pastors both churches says membership in the Rutherford church has been small for some time. Recently, about four people would regularly attend services.
Normally, a church could not be sustained by just four members, but Rutherford has a unique heritage, says Cornell.
The first Presbyterian services were held in what was then Dawn Township in 1874 in the church building beside the Presbyterians’ current home.
In 1925, the Presbyterians were part of a group of churches that formed the United Church of Canada. Churches were to vote on whether they would be included in the new denomination. If they didn’t, the building and congregation would automatically become United.
For some reason, the Dawn group didn’t vote and its building was turned over to the United Church. Half of the congregation did not approve and began worshiping in the Dawn Township Hall. Three years later, a former Methodist Church was bought a moved next door to the United Church.
In 1952, a member of the church, Thomas Prescott, left his farm and home in trust. The proceeds from the farm’s crops were left to the church to maintain a Presbyterian presence in Dawn Township. That generosity, says Cornell, enabled the small church to remain open.
But Cornell says the weekly attendance is so low, the members felt it was time to join the St. Andrew’s Church since they already shared a pastor.
“It’s not like the church in Rutherford is closing; the congregation is still alive. It’s like two people getting married and each comes into the marriage with a house – you don’t need two houses, so you pick one.”
The Rutherford Presbyterian Church will hold it’s last service Sunday morning at 10. The great-grandson of Rev. Hugh Cowan, who lead the church in 1897 to 1900, will bring greetings to the group.
After the service, the church members will form a convoy and head to St. Andrew’s in Dresden for a short dedication service.
Cornell says Rutherford Presbyterian won’t be forgotten. St. Andrew’s Church will rename its fellowship hall Rutherford Hall in the church’s honour. Two stain glass windows from Rutherford will also be installed in Dresden.
And Cornell says they hope to have a “continued Christian witness in the Dawn area – we hope to do the best we can, even without a church building on the site, to have some sort of ministry there.”