BY ROBERT L. BAKER
Wyoming County Press Examiner
The Tunkhannock Baptist Church which has stood at the corner of Church and Bridge Streets since 1883, has decided to close up shop.
Church treasurer John Brody said that a business meeting was held Jan. 5 following worship service, “and we voted to disband. We are officially closed.”
Brody had mixed emotions about the decision, which he said this past Monday was “partly financial and partly due to the aging nature of the congregation.”
He added, “Everyone is getting older.”
Brody said that the church’s last full-time minister, Rev. Allen Mickle, resigned at the end of summer in 2012, and the church’s members had been trying to keep it going without a minister.
“It was just too much,” he said.
Word about the church’s possible closure spread throughout town last week, with announcements made during a potluck supper at Nativity BVM Catholic Church on Saturday evening, and from the pulpit of the church’s next-door neighbor, the Tunkhannock United Methodist Church on Sunday morning.
On Monday, Pastor Peter Geschwindner said he had heard only discussion that the Baptist Church might be closing, and he told his congregants Sunday morning “that we need to be in prayer for everyone concerned if that’s the case.”
In 2011, Pastor Mickle oversaw a 170th anniversary celebration of a Baptist fellowship that had been in Tunkhannock since 1841, the year before Wyoming County was set off from Luzerne County.
In 1867, the Baptists acquired a church structure built by the Presbyterians where Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary Church sits today on East Tioga Street.
That church was deeded over to the Catholics in the 1880s, after the Baptists decided to build at their present location.
The Baptist Church was a popular one in its heyday, but membership began to dwindle after former Pastor Anthony ‘Tony’ Ogden’s death in 2009, almost a decade after he began serving there.
Bill Noble, who had been a member of the Tunkhannock Baptist Church for more than 40 years said the church had its share of ups and downs.
He said the church’s heyday in the 20th Century was probably in the late 1950s under Pastor Eugene Setzer and again from 1972 to 1999 under Pastor C. Emory Weeks.
Noble noted, however, that “encouraging more people to consider joining tends to be difficult these days.”