CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- After more than 120 years in the community, an East End church will likely close its doors soon, a church official said.
The congregation of St. Paul Lutheran Church, founded in 1892, could merge with that of Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church. The churches are about a half-mile apart.
St. Paul's church building is up for sale and has a potential buyer, said congregation president George Schwarz.
The problem for the church has been low attendance, he said.
Forty years ago the church hosted 250 people on a given Sunday and nearly 300 on special occasion Sundays, he said. Today, about 20 people attend on an average Sunday, he said.
"That's a real strain on finances," Schwarz said. "We're having to operate on endowment funds. Those are finite. [There's] going to be a point where they're gone."
Schwarz attributes the attendance problems to fewer people going to church in general these days. Some churches do well, he said, but most churchgoers are looking for activities and trips to various places.
"When you get to be small like our church, you can't offer those things," he said.
Trinity started in 1924 as an offshoot of St. Paul after members of the two congregations had a disagreement.
"I'm not sure of the issue," Schwarz said. "It may have been [about whether] you can be a member of a lodge or not. That was a long time ago and we're not enemies anymore."
In fact, the churches have a good relationship with one another and have similar interests, Schwarz said. Both are active in the same East End organizations, he said.
Still, the idea of closing is sad for St. Paul members, Schwarz said.
"But we're excited about the opportunity the merged church has," Schwarz said. "Even though St. Paul will close after all these years, we'll keep going in another place."
The congregation of St. Paul met for the first time at the home of one of its members in 1892. Its first building -- a small frame church -- was built by 1894 at the corner of Court and Brown streets. The church's present building on Lee Street was dedicated Nov. 8, 1916.
The church organ accompanist, Ralph Mills, has organized a concert series this month in celebration of the church's long history. The next concert is scheduled for 12:10 p.m. Wednesday and features the music of German composer Felix Mendelssohn.