By LINDA M. LINONIS
When Coitsville Presbyterian Church, 91 Coitsville-Hubbard Road, (Rooute 616) observed its 175th anniversary in 2011, it marked a celebration and realization.
Organized on April 12, 1836, it holds the distinction of being one of five pioneer Presbyterian churches established in the Mahoning Valley by Scotch-Irish settlers. It began with seven charter members then; the 175th year saw the membership at 15. In between, church membership was as high as 500 then a couple hundred.
Members who participated in the anniversary service also acknowledged it would be the last such event. The church would close, but no date was announced.
Now that day is here. The final service will be at 11 a.m. Sunday featuring hymn singing and sharing of memories from former ministers, former members and current members and friends.
The Rev. Robert Offerdahl, stated supply pastor, said the church has 18 members, and 15 to 20 people have been attending Sunday services.
Andy Konsol Jr. is moderator of the Coitsville Commission of Eastminister Presbytery, which will oversee the church closing. He said the Session of the church, its governing body, made the decision to finally close. “It’s dwindling membership and finances,” he said.
He said the membership didn’t “want the church to go into the red” and closing was a solution. “It’s sad to see the church close,” he said, noting its long history.
Konsol said the commission will oversee the liquidation of assets, which will “probably take some time.” Proceeds from the sale of the church and property will go to the church development fund of the presbytery.
In the anniversary story, Pastor Offerdahl noted records probably would go to the Presbyterian Historical Foundation in Philadelphia. The church had possession of the original deed signed by members of the Coitsville Presbyterian Society.
In that story, Ron Noble said he has been a member “all my life.” “My parents and grandparents attended. ... Seven generations have been here,” he said. His wife, Valda, joined in 1955.
Ed and Faye Guidosh also claim a long affiliation with the church. He’s been there about 60 years, she since the 1940s. Ancestors of Faye Guidosh’s first husband, Franklin Jackson, were among the founders.
The Nobles and Guidoshes both agreed that the church is a “welcoming” place where they have had many friends.
About two or three years ago, members decided to worship in the fellowship hall to conserve heating costs.
The sanctuary, with soaring wooden ceiling and stained-glass window, has not been used.
At one time, the church had a bell choir. Its music program featured Christmas and Easter cantatas, and there were adult and youth choirs. It also sponsored popular spaghetti and Swiss steak dinners.
The church also was a meeting place for The Goldenaires senior citizens and Boy Scout troop.