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Dwindling Congregation and Money Woes Force 140-Year-Old Church to Close

By Janet Upadhye | April 23, 2014 9:55am
 St. Luke's Lutheran Church and Academy will close this year due to a diminishing congregation and much needed building repairs, the Metropolitan New York Synod announced.
St. Luke's Lutheran Church and Academy
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CLINTON HILL — St. Luke's Lutheran Church and Academy is set to close its doors this summer due to a significantly declining congregation and a building in need of $10 million in repairs, church officials announced.

The house of worship is expected to hold its final service on June 22 and St. Luke’s Academy, a non-religious based preschool housed in the building, will also close as of Aug. 31, officials said.

“The decision to close a congregation is never an easy one," Bishop Robert Rimbo of the Metropolitan New York Synod, which oversees the church, said in a statement.

"By 2012, membership and worship attendance had drastically diminished, making it impractical for the congregation to fulfill the purposes for which it was organized; and the condition of the buildings continued to deteriorate, making it necessary for the synod to protect the property from further waste and deterioration.”

The church currently has a congregation of just 30 regular members, according to the Daily News.

The decision to close came on the heels of a recent inspection of the church building, built in 1894, which found a hole in the ceiling of the sanctuary and a tree growing in the chimney.

The cathedral, gold cross and stained glass windows are also in need of major repairs, Rimbo told the News.

St. Luke's was founded in 1869 by a group of German immigrants who originally met in a small public hall on Cumberland Street in Fort Greene.

Twenty-five years later the congregation had grown so rapidly that members bought a plot on Washington Avenue for $35,000 and built a $40,000 "English Gothic" church and school house on the land, according to a New York Times article written in 1894.

Now, nearly 145 years later, the deteriorating church and its surrounding property are valued at $2.9 million, according to the News

It is not clear whether the Synod will repurpose the church or sell the property.

St. Luke's Lutheran Church and St. Luke’s Academy did not return requests for comment.