A very special service, to be held at 4 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 4, will mark the last time that St. Paul's Episcopal Church — the church with the bright red doors located on the corner of Washington and 4th streets in Savanna — will be meeting for worship.
According to Father Bob North, it is the hope of the remaining and former members of St. Paul's, who are preparing a festive reception following the service, that this All Saints' Sunday will be an occasion to honor all those who have attended St. Paul's and served the wider Savanna community throughout the years.
He said a special effort is being made to invite those who have grown up in the church and moved away or remained in Savanna as well as the lay members and clergy of the other churches with whom St. Paul's has worked with over the years in the Savanna Inter Church Community Association.
The members and clergy of nearby Episcopal churches in Morrison, Galena, Freeport and elsewhere have also been invited.
The service will give participants the opportunity to come to the front of the church and light a candle in memory of those who have gone before them but who have been given a new life.
The service will also mark the ending of the pastoral relationship between Fr. Bob North, who has served St. Paul's for 16 years, and the few remaining St. Paul's members who continue to live in Savanna.
In the last several years the membership of St. Paul's has declined as various members have moved to different communities. Some recent and anticipated moves from Savanna by others have meant that very few would be present for the church's regularly scheduled 8:30 a.m. Sunday service or for its other ministries although financially they could probably continue to pay their bills for somewhat longer.
“What has happened to St. Paul's is happening to many, what sociologists refer to as ‘volunteer organizations,’ especially those located in rural areas,” said Fr. North. “Veterans’ groups, bowling leagues, service clubs and churches all are experiencing the loss of members to carry on their various missions. Most such organizations have seen a ‘greying’ of their membership as the youth of their communities move away for lack of good jobs or, for a variety of reasons, lose interest.”
The church buildings will revert to the ownership of the trustees of the Episcopal Diocese of Northern Illinois whose offices are in Chicago. The building will not be deconsecrated at this point in time. The buildings may be sold if a willing buyer can be found.
The fabric of the buildings will be carefully maintained using the small endowment that the parish has accumulated over the years. This will allow the lawns to be mowed and the sidewalks cleared of snow and minimal heat and insurance costs to be paid.
The remaining and former members of St. Paul's strongly desire that the final worship service of what has been called "The Church of the Pioneers" might be a celebration of what St. Paul's has meant to its members and the community.
They hope that as many persons as possible can plan to attend the service and enjoy the reception that will follow. The service will involve the celebration of the Holy Eucharist or Mass or Holy Communion as it is called in various faith traditions.
All of the clergy present who wish to do so will be asked to con-celebrate with Fr. Bob and everyone who has been baptized, no matter what their denomination, will be very much encouraged to partake of the bread and wine of this service if they feel able to participate.