When Andy Singletary struck the last note of “Toccata on Amazing Grace,” on the pipe organ, there ensued a sound of silence in the Grace United Methodist Church Sanctuary.
There was applause and then a hush enveloped the attendees.
A few moments before the final song, District Superintendent Michael McQueen read to the midtown Atlanta congregation, at Ponce de Leon and Boulevard, “The time has now come to end the 151-year faith community of Grace United Methodist church . . . Many of you will move into the new church soon to launched, some will join other Church communities closer to home. Let us honor the worship and work done here and give thanks for its season of ministry.”
The leave-taking of members, from the congregation, talked about the teaching from the pulpit, church council, hospitality, Sunday school and missions work of Grace UMC. This brought memories of my work on the Board of Trustees and the HELP ministry when we walked the streets of Atlanta nourishing the homeless with food, toiletries, a means of spiritual advice.
With those last comments, the 30-year spiritual dance with Grace United Methodist was over. The good times, the crying times, the joyous times and cherished friendships, that was nourished in this space, was over.
Now, “Cascade Midtown” will occupy the sanctuary in this building.
When I gazed around the sanctuary, I observed people holding back tears as the familiar hymns sounded better, than ever, on the pipe organ this Sunday May Morning: “The Church’s One Foundation”, “Amazing Grace”, “My Eternal King” and “Joyful, joyful We Adore Thee.” It was bittersweet with dirge atmosphere hovering in this space.
As I sat in the pew and my gaze searched every stain glass window, I thought of the saints gone to be with the Lord, over the years, and the living Grace UMC members enjoying this closing service.
I closed my eyes and thought about a church closing some 13-years ago which encouraged someone to write this poem “The Church Closing”: I don’t remember the poets’ name.
The Church Closing
I hate to see a church close down
Where folks for years were blest.
Little babes were holy made
And souls were laid to rest.
There brides were wed and kids were taught
To know the right from wrong.
Suppers drew a goodly crew,
And preachers preached too long.
The church bell rang. The choir sang
As best a few could do.
Teachers taught what truth was sought,
And that was all they knew.
The church is closed. An era passed.
What once was good is gone.
Those who care a sorrow share,
But memories live on.
I opened my eyes, got up, and walked down the aisle, through an open door, and into a corridor populated with memories from the 151 year-Grace UMC history, and then downstairs to the fellowship hall for our “Celebration Luncheon” where everybody had a scrumptious meal, including Richard Black’s famous Banana Pudding.
Another delicious memory.
Slowly, after the meal, everybody said their goodbyes, amid some tears, and walked to their cars and drove out the parking lot and onto Charles Allen Drive, which is named after a Grace UMC famous minister, who held the pulpit from 1948-1960.
Even leaving the building, which housed Grace United Methodist Church, for the last time, memories confronted each person, as if the church was weeping a precious goodbye.
Now, we must find a new church home and hopefully find a new Spiritual Dance partner.