HANFORD, Calif. (KFSN) -- In the South Valley, a Hanford church is now closed after serving the community for nearly 65 years.
St. James Lutheran Church shut its doors for good Sunday.
Church leaders call the decision an emotional but necessary one.
"It's the last things, turning over the keys, closing out the accounts, making the last phone calls. Today is a lot quieter than yesterday was. Yesterday was a beautiful sacred celebration," said Pastor Julie Kelly.
Pastor Julie arrived at St. James 18 months ago just as COVID restrictions were forcing widespread shutdowns and closures.
She was optimistic about the church's future but says an aging congregation, empty pews and dwindling funds ultimately left officials with no choice
"We did not have the resources," she said. "While we had the property, we did not have the resources to continue the daily ministry. Expenses like keeping on the lights, paying for the internet and we just didn't have the capacity here."
St. James joins a long list of churches nationwide that have made similar difficult decisions during the pandemic.
"The sheer number of nearly 100,000 churches expected to close, that is a little daunting at times," Kelly said.
St. James was set to celebrate its 65th anniversary this summer.
But instead, the property has been handed over to the Sierra Pacific Synod
"AA, other congregations and gifting the property to the Synod allowed them to continue to use this space while St. James closes their doors," Kelly said.