If, indeed, the church closes, the effect will ripple through the community. Its faithful congregants will be most directly affected, deprived of the spiritual comfort of a beautiful sanctuary where some of them were baptized and married. A classic stone church, based on the design of Richard Upjohn, the American architect who pioneered the restoration of Gothic architecture for American churches, its construction materials were dug out of Canaan’s rocky hills and it has been a defining presence in the center of Canaan for 168 years. Without its congregation it will become a hollow presence, another rent in the fabric of the town.
Beyond their liturgical functions, churches are cornerstones of their communities. They provide social outlets, spiritual succor and tangible assistance to the needy. Their loss diminishes the sense of unity in towns, even for those who are not physically members of a given church.
It seems unlikely that at the 11th hour Christ Church will find a solution to its problem. It has been years since it has been able to afford a full-time minister and, without a consistent leader, it is hard for any organization to thrive. Its endowments are depleted and its buildings in need of work. Only a few people sit in its pews each Sunday and the Episcopal Diocese of Connecticut can offer little support—it says its coffers have been emptied by similar declines in other Episcopal churches throughout the state.
Members are praying for “a bunch of angels” that may be able to revitalize the church. It is a worthy goal and one that, perhaps, should not fall solely on the few remaining parishioners to attain. Perhaps an ecumenical effort is needed to preserve an institution that ultimately benefits all.
As someone who spent nearly 13 years just across the Hudson from some of these small towns in Connecticut and Massachusetts and their wonderful character I lament the wonderful buildings that once represented vital communities of faith and now face a regrettable demise... It is no different from the great sadness I feel when I drive home to Nebraska and find the wonderful white clapboard churches of the prairie facing the same fate.