After years of decline, Bittersville United Methodist Church in Lower Windsor Township closed last week at age 103.

"People just got old. We had no children left. And the people in the little village of Bittersville just didn't support the church," said longtime member Donald Staley, 84.

"The expenses started to exceed our income. It was inevitable."

Membership at the village church had dwindled to 23. They considered merging with another congregation but decided to shutter things instead. The last service was Dec. 27.

"Their life cycle had ended," said the Rev. Mark Webb, the superintendent for York-area United Methodists. "Hopefully, they will be able to celebrate the legacy they've had."

The conference of Methodists in central Pennsylvania will attempt to sell the building at 1943 Craley Road, 3 miles east of Windsor -- preferably to a community group or another church, he said.

After they voted to close in October, congregants had the option to transfer their memberships to another United Methodist congregation. There are at least 11 within 5 miles, including Emmanuel UMC in Windsor Township.

That congregation is helping Bittersville UMC continue its food pantry, which helped to feed an average 34 families a month, said coordinator Tammy Markel.

The pantry will be open for the last time at Bittersville 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. Tuesday before relocating to the lower level of 2 E. Main St.


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in Windsor, which is the borough office building, Markel said. The pantry will reopen there 4:30 p.m. Feb. 2.

Some Bittersville members were able to take mementos with them, such as a piano, the church crèche or a pew, Staley said.

A bronze plaque at the church memorializes 11 Bittersville veterans of World War I and 77 of World War II.

The plaque will be removed and mounted somewhere on township property -- possibly a park, said Hollis Bedell, secretary of the Lower Windsor Area Historical Society.

The congregation was founded in 1906 and had more than 30 pastors during its lifetime, according to church records. The latest leader was Edward L. Wentz, a lay minister who served the congregation until its closing.

Average attendance at worship was 15 people. The majority of members were retired and living on fixed incomes, Staley said.

"I was probably the youngest member in the congregation," said Markel, 46, who attended all her life.

She and others are now seeking new church homes. While members were sad to leave, they recognized they couldn't continue in Bittersville, Staley said.

"Something needed to happen," he said. "Even though we didn't want to close the church, there's no other way."

Food pantry

Tuesday is the last day for the food pantry at Bittersville United Methodist Church in Lower Windsor Township.

In February, the pantry will move to the lower level of 2 E. Main St. in Windsor, which is the borough office building.

Hours will remain the same: 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. on the first Tuesday of the month.

For details, call Tammy Markel at 246-8683.

Online

Bittersville United Methodist Church, www.gbgm-umc.org/Bittersville_Umc

On the blogs

· Bittersville served as end of line during heyday of York County trolleys.