CENTRE COUNTY, Pa. (WTAJ) — The first organized church in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania will ring it’s bells for the final time on Christmas Eve.

The Bellefonte First Presbyterian Church (203 N Spring Street) was established by the founders of the borough, John Dunlop and James Harris, in the 1800s. Since then, it’s pews have held notable Pennsylvania leaders, including Governors Andrew Curtain and James Beaver.

“It just goes so far back,” said Kathy Allen, elder and deacon of the Bellefonte First Presbyterian Church. “The history is so deep, it’s just amazing.”

As the first congregations grew in the 1860s, a larger sanctuary was built and is the structure seen today.

Keeping churches filled in 2021, however, has been a nationwide struggle the Presbyterian Church has felt firsthand.

“We have classrooms that haven’t been used for years. We have a nursery with items for babies that hasn’t been used for quite a few years,” said Robert Dannaker, elder of the Bellefonte First Presbyterian Church. “Now in 2021, we are closing our doors.” 

“For some folks, it’s very, very, very hard,” said Allen. “It’s going to be very hard.”

Allen said the church has become a home base for countless individuals in Centre County, including herself.

“Moving here originally and not knowing a soul or person, I knew I would make a new family at my church,” said Allen.

External programs held at the church, including the Bellefonte Lunch Program, are finding new homes. The lunch program, which has been in operation since 1995, will move across the street to the Trinity United Methodist Church, at 128 W Howard Street.

From baptisms, weddings, and funerals, Dannaker recognized the memories the sanctuary holds, but notes, there’s more to a church than it’s four walls.

“The church is not the building, the church is the people,” said Dannaker. “The church will scatter to other churches and keep on worshipping.” 

All are welcome to attend the church’s final, candlelight Christmas Eve service which begins at 7 p.m.

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