Church built in 1899 in Tempe holds final service

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The First Congregational United Church of Christ is Tempe's oldest church. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) The First Congregational United Church of Christ is Tempe's oldest church. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
Last January, the 40 members made the hard decision to sell the church. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) Last January, the 40 members made the hard decision to sell the church. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
At the top of thesteepleis the original bell that still sits in there and still rings. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) At the top of thesteepleis the original bell that still sits in there and still rings. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
A development company purchased the historic building for $5 million. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) A development company purchased the historic building for $5 million. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
TEMPE, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) -

A piece of Arizona history is in transition.

The First Congregational United Church of Christ in Tempe, built in 1899, held its final service on Sunday afternoon.

Last January, the 40 members made the hard decision to sell the church because it could no longer financially support itself with such a small congregation.  

At the top of the steeple is the original bell that still sits in there and still rings.

The church is the oldest in Tempe.

Sunday was especially difficult for twin sisters who had been going to the church when they were college students at Arizona State University 63 years ago. They are now 80.

"All of the major milestones of my life have been celebrated in this church, from my marriages to the christening of my children to the funerals of my parents and my husbands," Jane Gray, a church member, said.

"It gave us a home away from home here in college," Jean Hall, a church member, said. "I'm kinda choked up." 

Dorothy Elkins has been coming to the church since 1943. Choked up, she told us today's final sermon was bittersweet.

"Sitting there looking at the stained glass windows just brought back lots of memories," Elkins said.

Those memories included her life's most important events. She was married at the church and raised four children, grandchildren and even great-grandchildren in Tempe.

"We've married and buried quite a few people [here]. My daughter was married here and my husband died 11 years ago and we had his memorial service here," Elkins said.

Her granddaughter Betsy Fowler was also married here.

"I had this moment where I could just see down the aisle and all these memories just came flooding back of my grandfather's funeral or my wedding day," said Fowler.

Although the church doors are closing, the memories and legacy the church has left will carry on.

"It will always be a home for me because this is where I was married. This is where my family started," said Fowler.

"I call it my legacy, yeah," said Elkins.

A development company purchased the historic building for $5 million. It's still unknown what the developers' plans are for the building but members fear this piece of history may be demolished. 

Copyright 2017 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.

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