(By Shannon Rossi For The News-Herald, Michigan) When the final worship service is held at 10:30 a.m. Sept. 24 at the First Presbyterian Church of Wyandotte, 161 years of service to the community will end.
Despite the loss of the building itself, the remaining members of the congregation will carry their memories of the camaraderie they shared throughout the years, as well as all of the marriages and baptisms and choirs and Bible studies, for the rest of their lives.
Doris Karr, 92, is a lifelong member of the church and Wyandotte resident.
“I’ve lived at three addresses in my life,” Karr said. “I was born on Poplar, lived on Emmons from ages 2 to 27 and have lived on 16th Street since then.”
Her history with the church actually stretches back even further. Karr’s parents were married in the former church building, at the corner of Chestnut and First Streets, until its demolition in the 1960s.
“We outgrew the old church,” she said. “There were probably about 1,000 members back then.”
Because of the size of the congregation in the early 1960s, a larger building was opened to the congregation. The beams on the ceiling of the church are Ponderosa pine, brought from the western part of the country on rail cars. The stained glass windows surrounding the sanctuary tell Bible stories, as well as the stories of some of the members of the congregation.
“Sometimes the pastor would stand by each window and use it as a teaching tool,” said Karr.
But the windows also honor at least two of the church’s past members. One window, on the left side of the altar, near where the choir would sit, was placed in memory of Capt. Henry F. Kresin, father of lifelong congregation member Jim Kresin, 80.
“My father was a ship’s captain for Wyandotte Chemicals for many years,” Kresin said.
When Captain Kresin died in the 1960s, two windows, one featuring the words of hymn “For those in peril on the sea” and the one below featuring a ship’s captain, were designed and placed to honor his years of service to the church.
Another window near the front of the sanctuary honors the father of Deanna Hibbler, the church’s music director. The church also holds four stained glass windows, created around 1899, that came over from the old church.
Barb Macrae of Ann Arbor applied for and accepted the position to be a transitional minister at First Presbyterian Church, 2250 Oak St., in June 2016.
“I knew closing the church was a possibility when I interviewed for the position,” said Macrae, who has been a pastor for 20 years. “My job was to help the congregation discern what was possible.”
‘It has to happen’
According to Macrae, the church had been doing well enough to stay open until about five years ago. There was a lack of communication between members and pastors, causing the congregation to dwindle.
“It has to happen,” Karr said. “Seventeen people, which is about all we have at services on Sundays, can’t keep the church going.”