Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Maynard, MA: Churches, Closed

Maynard was once host to a dozen church congregations but four have since dissolved or relocated. Nationally, a decline in mainline Protestant churches (Methodist, Lutheran, Presbyterian, Congregational, Episcopal) has been going on for decades. Estimates are that over the past fifty years these faiths have lost more than one-third of their membership. Surviving churches often find themselves with an aging congregation and less than excellent financial health, compounded by problems associated with maintaining an aged building.

Against these trends, there is evidence that the decline in total number of places of worship and worshipers has reached a plateau or even reversed this trend over the last decade. However, most of the growth is in new churches rather than increased membership in existing churches, with many of the new congregations identifying themselves as non-denominational and biblically conservative. Those interested in learning more about worship trends should e-visit the Hartford Institute for Religious Research [].

Closed churches in Maynard:

Click on photos to enlarge
United Methodist Church (1895-2014): There is often a gestation period between initial interest and steeple - in this instance 30 years. Services began in 1867, but were held in various meeting halls until the congregation completed the existing building in 1895. May 11, 2014 was the last Sunday services at UMC, ending 119 years in the building and 147 years as a congregation. Members are joining other churches. The local Alcoholics Anonymous groups, which had used the church for their meetings, relocated within town. The future of the building has not yet been determined. The Maynard Historical Society has remarkably little information on this church's history, so the hope is that information can be passed on rather than discarded.

St. George's June 2014, quite overgrown
St. George's Episcopal Church (1895-2006): Episcopal services began in 1894. The cornerstone of the church was placed on August 10, 1895; the church consecrated as the Parish of St. George in 1897. The church had an active men's group, the Order of Sir Galahad, a women's group, the Guild of St. Hilda, also a youth summer camp program at Fort Pond. Membership declined after the Church of the Good Shepherd opened in Acton in 1962. After the Maynard church closed, the parking lot and rectory were sold separately. A remodeling project, intended to turn the ex-church into housing, is in limbo, leaving behind a deteriorating building with an uncertain future. August 2014: something going on - the brush and weeds around the building have been cleared.

Finnish Evangelical Lutheran Church (1908-1967): The woolen mill attracted many immigrants from Finland. August 1894 saw an outdoor service and picnic on the banks of the mill pond - an event proposed by a traveling Bible salesman. The event served as a catalyst to start a Lutheran church. In 1902 the nascent congregation incorporated and bought land on Glendale Street. Construction started in 1907. The church was dedicated on June 6, 1908. The congregation stayed active, although over years the members and their children and grandchildren assimilated (services switched from Finnish to English). In 1967 the congregation decided to construct a new church in north Sudbury. The Church of the Nazarene took up residence for a while, them moved out around 1995. The building is currently a private residence.

St. Casimir Roman Catholic Church (1928-1999): By 1910, more than 600 immigrants from Poland live in Maynard. Even though the Mass was in Latin, these immigrants wanted to hear sermons and other aspects in their own language. The St Casimir Parish - services in Polish - was established in 1912, meeting at St. Bridget's. Fourteen years passed before the congregation bought the powerhouse building of the defunct Concord, Maynard and Hudson Railway [electric trolley], and two more years before the converted building was blessed as their own church.

Formerly St. Casimir Roman
Catholic Church (1928-1999)
In time, death of first-generation immigrants, assimilation of their descendants and dearth of new immigrants tolled on all of Greater Boston's Polish parishes. In 1995, Cardinal Bernard Law announced that 10 of 14 would stop celebrating Mass in Polish. Four years later the Beacon-Villager ran an article about the pending closure of St. Casimir. A locally circulated petition could not reverse the decision. The parish was merged back into St. Bridget Parish, although the St. Casimir building remained a consecrated space, used by the Polish community for baptisms, weddings and funerals. In 2003 the building was sold to St. Mary's Indian Orthodox Church of Boston.

CODA: Churches still open in Maynard (in color if hyperlink to website)
And once there was a synagogue in Maynard. In the early 1900s, the Maynard Hebrew Society invited a rabbi to conduct Sabbath services in rented meeting halls. September 1921, the congregation established Rodoff Shalom Synagogue in a house on Acton Street (next to where Avis car rentals is now). The congregation was active to 1980, when it merged with the newly formed Congregation Beth Elohim in Acton. In a temple newsletter, Adam Jacoby remembered, “In 1980 we built a new building and marched the Torah from Maynard to Acton under a chuppa with shofars blowing. I was one of the shofrot during the walk.”