NORTHFIELD CENTER — After more than 50 years of serving the community, Epiphany Lutheran Church will close and the congregation will disband, effective July 1.

The Rev. Christian Just, pastor of the church for the past 25 years, said the deed to the Northfield-area church at the corner of Route 8 and Valley View Road will be handed over to the Lutheran Church Extension Fund, which is owed $1.35 million on the property.

If the congregation does not disband, it would be asked to pay the difference between what it owes on the church building, and what it eventually is sold for, Just said.

He said part of the problem has been declining membership, as the congregation today has less than 100 members.

The congregation had been attempting to sell the church building to pay off its note but found no buyers.

So it voted to disband on April 8.

"This seemed to be the only way out," Just said.

One party that was interested in buying the building, a group of Sikhs from Bedford, had reportedly made a $1.266 million offer to purchase, but was unable to raise the funds, church officials previously said in their monthly bulletin.

The church is on a triangular shaped, 6.7-acre lot. According to Summit County Fiscal Office records, the lot is worth around $460,000 and the 35,000-square-foot building (built in 1960) is appraised at just over $1.35 million for a total value of over $1.8 million.

While Just will no longer minister to a congregation in Nordonia Hills, he said he will continue to serve as part-time minister at St. Thomas Lutheran Church in Streetsboro,

Senior Center closing

In the meantime, the Nordonia Hills Senior Center, in its sixth year of Wednesday meetings at Epiphany Lutheran, will close at the end of June, when the deed to the building is turned over. 

Northfield Center Trustee Paul Buescher said Northfield Center and Northfield Village officials are waiting for seniors to decide whether they would rather move to the Nordonia Hills Event Center in Northfield Village, or start meeting at the Macedonia Senior Center in the community room at Macedonia City Hall. 

Buesher said Village Mayor Jesse Nehez is attempting to negotiate a price to lease the event center with Summit Plaza owners. 

The $9,000 annual senior center lease with Epiphany Lutheran had been split between Northfield Center, the village and Sagamore Hills Township, but Sagamore Hills Trustees decided Monday to pay Macedonia $3,500 to help operate the Macedonia Senior Center instead.

Buescher said the seniors are expected to vote when they meet again Wednesday. 

Senior representatives did not immediately return messages seeking comment.

Buesher said that a show of hands at the senior center this week, with about 30 members present Wednesday, showed only a handful were in favor of meeting in the city.

Sagamore Hills Trustee Paul Schweikert said trustees decided the best course of action is to assist the city with its program, though the city does not turn away any senior and the township is not obligated to pitch in.

"I don’t think any community wants to freeload," Schweikert said. "You can have three good lunches for 11 bucks a week and have some good company, too."

Macedonia Mayor Joe Migliorini said that many who have lunch at the city’s senior center twice per week are from outside Macedonia and the city would not turn away any newcomers, with or without additional funding from other communities. He said the city plans to use the money from Sagamore Hills to add a third lunch each week to the current, twice-weekly schedule. 

He said lunches would be served Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at a cost of $4 on Monday and Friday and $3 on Wednesday.  He said the lunches cost the city around $6 each. He also said the Silverdonian senior group, which now meets at the senior center on Tuesdays, may have to change its schedule, as parking at City Hall coincides with mayor’s court and is proving inconvenient.

He said that if Northfield Center and Northfield Village also choose to help pay for senior services, the money would go to help further reduce the cost of meals, rather than rent. 

Also, the city would ask for an increase in the amount of money it receives from the Area Agency on Aging — from $12,000 to $21,000.

"It would be a win-win for everyone," he said.

Eric Marotta can be reached at emarotta@recordpub.com, or 330-541-9322.