When Jim Ross joined Dormont Presbyterian Church in 1950, the congregation had nearly 1,000 members, including most merchants on the main street of Potomac Avenue.
Once it was among the largest churches in the Pittsburgh Presbytery but no more. With its membership rolls having dwindled to just over 100 parishioners, Dormont Presbyterian will hold its final service at that location today at 11 a.m.
"The congregation left little by little," said Mr. Ross, 95, of Banksville. "It is very rough -- after being there for so long, knowing so many people, and seeing them disappearing."
The church, which was founded in 1907, is moving its remaining members to the Wallace Memorial Presbyterian Church inGreen Tree.
The Dormont Presbyterian Church building at 2865 Espy Ave. was put up for sale about a year ago and has been sold to North Way Christian Community in Wexford, said the Rev. Sarah Robbins, who has been at Dormont Presbyterian for three years.
"Our goal was to find another church that would be willing to take care of the church," she said, adding that North Way Christian will undertake renovations to the church that will be completed in spring.
"The size and age of our congregation could no longer support the building. It was a hard decision to sell, but the finances and reality of the space is how we came to that decision. It is somewhat bittersweet, but we are grateful for the hospitality of the new church in welcoming us and are ready to get going."
Church members could have voted to disband as a congregation but elected instead to find somewhere else to worship, Rev. Robbins said. The congregation at Wallace welcomed them "with open arms." In fact, the two congregations have realized they have so much in common that they will hold "blended" services -- worshipping together instead of separately -- with the first being held next Sunday.
Moreover, Rev. Robbins said the two congregations will each vote early next year whether to merge into one congregation. The Pittsburgh Presbytery would have to approve such a merger.
Mr. Ross, a retired trolley and bus operator, joined the church after the birth of his first son. He's watched families become more separated geographically, and the children of parishioners leave to join other churches, if they join a church at all.
"Instead of staying with mom and dad, they're clear on their own, maybe clear across the country," he said. "Anyone moving in, you can't get them to go to any church."
At today's final service, Rev. Robbins expects there will be "grief at the loss of such a beautiful space, but we'll be thankful to be moving as a community to a new space and to be welcomed there. It is hard to say goodbye to something that has meant so much to people in the community.
"We will be talking about legacies and our new path forward," he said. "We'll give thanks for all the folks who worshiped here, serviced here, sought to witness to Jesus Christ in this place and we will talk about our new future together. And we'll be thankful the building will be used in the way it was originally intended."
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