By Sue Tiffin
The congregation of Maple Lake United Church will disband, 120 years after the first congregation met in the then-new building.
On Jan. 30 at the church’s annual meeting, members of the church on the corner of Highway 118 and Stanhope Airport Road opted to permanently close the building and disband the congregation.
Back in November, the church council had advised that the church was “in trouble,” as the congregation of Maple Lake United Church has over the past few years been small – with fewer than 10 regular members – and the church was struggling to “keep up with the physical and financial demands” of maintenance. While fundraisers had helped to fill the gap between donations from the congregation and the cost to operate the church, the pandemic and subsequent public health restrictions created challenges in hosting events to raise money.
At the church’s annual meeting at the end of January, a discussion was held and a decision made between continuing on with much-needed additional support (including increased attendance at church and increases in offering and fundraising); permanently closing the building and amalgamating the congregation with another United Church congregation, possibly Highland Hills United Church, or permanently closing the building and disbanding the congregation encouraging members and adherents to attend the church of their choice.
A new members and adherents service will be held virtually on Feb. 27 during the Highlands Hills United Church service. Membership for those at Maple Lake United Church will be transferred to Highland Hills United Church unless members prefer a different option.
A small group of trustees will catalogue items in the church, especially those that are dedicated.
“Then thoughtful consideration will be given to the new home for the items,” reads a Feb. 7 letter from church council.
“The MLUC trustees are currently exploring options and working with the East Central Ontario Regional Council to finalize matters,” the letter explains regarding the land and building.
In Oct. 2016, the former Minden United Church and Zion United Church voted to amalgamate into Highland Hills United Church, while the congregants at Maple Lake United Church voted for it to remain a freestanding church.
“As the snow of winter lays thick around us, the buds of spring lay waiting to rebirth the summer leaves and flowers,” reads the letter. “May the members of MLUC be like buds joining other congregations to bring about a spring of hope.”