The United Christian and Baptist Church sanctuary was once again filled with the joyous sounds of a singing congregation Sunday.

It would be the last time.

The church, faced with a dwindling congregation, decided to close. Sunday was the final service.

About 100 people filled the sanctuary with song and prayer.

“My, what a crowd, much more than we have been used to in recent years,” said Steve Reif, moderator of the church board, in a welcoming statement.

The congregation met in the sanctuary bathed in the warm sunlight streaming in through the two stained glass windows under which thousands have attended Sunday services, weddings and funerals over the years.

The Baptist church in Kalona was dedicated in 1892, and the Kalona Christian Church was organized in 1896. In 1956, the two congregations agreed to worship together.

Twice over the years, the congregation rebuilt the church after fires – in 1963 and again in 2003.

This church “has run its course,” the Rev. Dennis Arnold, church pastor, said. “The church is not its buildings. The church is its people. That is us.”

He added: “Be of good cheer. God is with us where ever we may go.”

After deconsecrating the church, the Rev. Carol Teare, representing the Mid-America Baptist Church, recalled the church’s “long mission and ministry.”

“I am deeply aware of how bittersweet this day is for you,” she said. “Think of how this congregation has shaped the faith of so many since 1898.”

She talked about “a legacy that will not end today but will continue.”

“Be not afraid,” Teare said. “What you have done here will carry on for generations to come.”

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