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First Presbyterian In Clairton To Close Doors After Century Of Operation

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Christmas time is normally a joyous moment for Christian churches. But for the First Presbyterian Church of Clairton, it is bitter sweet. This will be their last Christmas, as the church will close Sunday after a century of operation. Essential Pittsburgh’s Paul Guggenheimer sat down with the church’s pastor Rev. Frank Trotta to get his thoughts on the congregation’s last days.

Shrinking membership is to blame for the church’s closing, Trotta revealed. The church went from a membership high of 1,400 in the 70s, to around 50 people today, with only 15 or so showing up every Sunday, he said.

“The people told me the mill went down, and when the mill went down, the town started going downhill. Still is.”

The church building is expected to be sold, although Trotta said they do not know who the buyers might be yet. He personally would like to see it turned into either a halfway house or used by another ministry of some kind.

“I think that’s gonna be the pain, because there’s been a lot of stuff that’s been given to the church, donated to the church, and wondering what’s going to happen to it,” Trotta said. “And I kept saying, ‘We will find out.’”

Although he only served as the church’s pastor for the past four years, Trotta found the congregation to be warmer than usual ones, who he often says treat pastors like an employee.

“Sometimes in the pastorate, the churches get a little frustrated because the pastor isn’t everything they want him to be,” he said. “This church accepts everything I have, everything that I’ve been and I sense some sadness as I leave there.”

Trotta anticipates that the congregation is likely to scatter to many different churches after First Presbyterian closes. He says many of the churchgoers did not live in Clairton, but returned to the building for the nostalgia.

“The thing that was drawing them to one place is the church. They grew up there, they were baptized there, their kids were married there, the kids have left, people have moved on, but the thing that’s drawing them back has been the building and somewhere that they can call home, their spiritual home.”

As for his last sermon, Trotta plans on using the story of the death and resurrection of Lazarus, a story he admits is odd around the Christmas season, but thinks is prophetic to the church’s last days.

“[M]y thought was to let the congregation know that even though the church is one, even though it seems like we’ve been buried, there is life and there is also resurrection.”

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