By Bryna Zumer, The Baltimore Sun. (Maryland)
The Rev. Kimberly Secrist Ashby invited anyone “with a long-standing connection” to Deer Creek Harmony Presbyterian Church to come to a table in the back of the sanctuary Sunday and press jewels, symbolizing their memories of the church, into two small clay crosses.
It was a final gesture of remembrance for the 145-year-old building, and especially fitting for its 184-year-old congregation based in Darlington.
“It’s too artistic a church for us not to do this,” Secrist Ashby noted while helping people with the symbolic art project.
Ashby, who pastors Fallston Presbyterian Church, was on hand to lead the final service at Harmony Church on Sunday afternoon, along with the Rev. Daris Bultena of Joppa’s Good Shepherd Presbyterian Church.
The prominent church at the crossroads of Harmony Church Road and Route 161, which includes an adjacent fellowship hall and cemetery, was down to about 20 members, most of them elderly, the Rev. Susie Atkinson explained earlier.
After more than 170 years of serving northern Harford County, the Deer Creek Harmony Presbyterian Church will hold its last service this Sunday.
The congregation had dwindled to about 20 members, most of whom are older than 85, the Rev. Susie Atkinson said Wednesday. Last year, the church, which is at the corner of Harmony Church Road and Route 161, briefly closed after finding structural problems, but that process turned up mold and deeper building issues.
Deer Creek yoked itself with Havre de Grace Presbyterian Church, with Atkinson serving as pastor for both congregations, but “ever since, people have been moving away; we had several middle-aged couples move away to be near their children,” she said.
A final service is scheduled for 3 p.m. Sunday.
On its Facebook page, the congregation thanked “God for the opportunity to have served in this community” and said it decided to fold “after much prayer and discernment.”
“May God’s Spirit continue to grace these grounds forevermore,” the post states. Last year, the church announced it would auction its parsonage.
Deer Creek Harmony was established in the 1830s by members of the Churchville Presbyterian Church, off of Route 22, long-time Churchville Presbyterian member David Hodge said. Churchville Presbyterian, which dates to 1738, no longer has any ties with Deer Creek Harmony, he said.
The Harmony congregation dates to 1832 and the building to 1871, Atkinson said.
Mary Gaut, interim general presbyter for the Presbytery of Baltimore, said the title and property of the church will revert to the presbytery.
“The first thing that is very important to say is, this is not a case of us, the presbytery, going in and closing the church. This was their decision,” Gaut said, explaining the congregation voted on Feb. 28 to dissolve.