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Tearful farewell to 174-year-old church in Aurora

One remaining 27 members First United Methodist Church John Roesch Aurorrings church's bell 17 times one for each decade worship

One of the remaining 27 members of First United Methodist Church, John Roesch, of Aurora, rings the church's bell 17 times, one for each decade of worship there, during the last service of the congregation on Sunday, June 26, 2011. First United was founded in 1837 by Sam Mcarty. | Brian Powers~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: June 27, 2011 2:52AM

For nearly two centuries, the bell of First United Methodist Church in Aurora has summoned the faithful to worship. On Sunday, however, the bell toll signified the closing of the church after 174 years.

“I am going to ring it loud for all to hear,” third generation parishioner John Roesch said, moments before stepping into the limestone bell tower.

Members and friends filled the sanctuary of Aurora’s oldest church at 60 S. Lincoln Ave., where generations of Christians have attended Sunday services, celebrated weddings and mourned at funerals.

The bell rang 17 times, one for each decade of the church’s existence.

Some 184 people came to bid a tearful farewell to the church, including several retired clergy of years ago.

The historic church was scheduled to close by the Northern Illinois Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church because of declining membership.

The Rev. David Seyller, a retired United Methodist pastor, was invited to return to his boyhood spiritual home of the late 1940s to give the final sermon.

Seyller remarked how the “nave” or ceiling of the Christian church symbolically resembled the flipside of a ship.

“This old ship has been on many voyages,” he said. “It has been faithful in its purpose.”

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