DEPEW, NY ( WKBW ) It was a bittersweet Sunday for members of a local church voluntarily closing their doors to merge with another church.
Two Roman Catholic churches in Depew are considering a merger because one of the churches can not pay the bills.
Despite the steady stream of parishioners leaving Mass at Saint Barnabas Church on George Urban Boulevard in Depew, attendance has been slipping over the past several years.
Rev. John Madsen, Pastor of Saint Barnabas explained, "When I came here in 1994, we had 2,300 families in the parish. Now we have under 600, so it has declined quite a bit."
Parishioner Marilyn Forster said, "You can tell...Mass is always less and less people."
The Church was built in 1994. It once had a school, but administrators closed it down three years ago because there were not enough students.
Now the church is facing a similar fate.
Father John Madsen is suggesting the church close down and merge with Our Lady Of The Blessed Sacrament, which is about a mile away.
Some parishioners wondered why there were two parishes so close together.
Church consolidations are becoming more common. A panel of local leaders worked through the shutdown of more than 70 churches across Western New York. Bishop Edward Kmiec called that project a "Journey Of Faith And Grace."
Rev. Madsen notes that people are moving out of the area, and younger people moving in don't go to church - or are not Catholic.
Whatever the reason, the members of Saint Barnabas are staying focused on the most important thing, noting that if there is only one church there is also only one God, and if the church is still in the neighborhood then they think it will be fine.