North Community Evangelical Lutheran Church turned 72 in February.

It won't see 73.

The church at 114 Morse Road in Clintonville will close in June. Members of the dwindling and aging -- but still active -- congregation made the decision after more than a year of reflection.

"It's very heart-wrenching for me," said Barb Mounts, president of the congregation and a 59-year member of North Community Lutheran. "It's hard, but it's time, as someone told me."

"It's an internal decision, an internal process, and then we invited the (Southern Ohio Synod Evangelical Lutheran Church in America) to be part of it," said the Rev. Chris Adams, who became pastor in 2010.

Adams said he will remain minister through June 2, "and then I will see what God has in store for me."

"It's a very difficult thing to have happened," said Jan Patton, a member of North Community Lutheran for the past 34 years. "We could have limped along, but we need to be more external than internal and share our wealth ... with others."

A celebration of the church is scheduled for 9 a.m. April 28, with a reception to follow. Former pastors, congregation presidents, music leaders and organists are being invited to the event, which will include Mass featuring the works of several different composers, said Sharon Minot, chairwoman of the committee making plans for that day.

"Music has always been an important part of this congregation," she said.

Church membership officially stands at 101, Adams said.

"We're seeing about 60 a Sunday," said Mounts, whose father, Roger Hendrix, is one of two still-living charter members of a church that was formed as a new-mission congregation of Clinton Heights Evangelical Lutheran Church to serve the rapidly growing northern part of the neighborhood.

The first service was held Feb. 2, 1947, in the former Beechwold Theater on North High Street. The church moved to a new facility in 1959, where it stands today.

North Community Lutheran will cease to exist this summer for "myriad reasons," said Adams, who lives in northwest Columbus.

These include the desegregation of what was then Columbus Public Schools in the late 1970s and early '80s, when many families fled to the suburbs, Mounts said.

The widening of Morse Road to four lanes made North Community Lutheran less of a neighborhood church, Adams said, because people were reluctant to cross it to attend services.

Minot, who lives near Polaris Fashion Place in north Columbus, said she and her husband, John Minot, joined North Community Lutheran in 1990.

"Part of what we saw here was we had some families who had younger children at that time, 29 years ago, and we hit a time when families with kids who were driving to get here decided there weren't enough youth groups," Sharon Minot said.

Today, Patton said, one family with children attends Sunday services once a month.

"That is the only family we have with children," the Clintonville resident said.

Mounts, who lives in Worthington, said her parents still live in Clintonville, so she will probably switch to Clinton Heights Lutheran when North Community closes.

"As long as they're alive, I'll probably go there," Mounts said.

"We're not sure," Patton said of what she and her husband, Robert Patton, plan to do. "We are probably going to take our time and visit other churches."

"We've decided to stick it out, be here to the end, and then go look," Minot said.

The Morse Road building, Patton said, is in the process of being sold to Scarlet City Church, which has been using the sanctuary for services.

"North Community Lutheran Church has a legacy of opening its facility to others," said Jay O'Brien, lead pastor and elder of Scarlet City. "Many have benefited from their hospitality, including Scarlet City Church.

"The past two years, NCLC has opened their doors to allow a few hundred adults and children from a different church in a different denomination to have a home for worship services.

"NCLC's hospitality honors the historical legacy of the Christian faith and reflects the openness of the Clintonville-Beechwold community.

"At Scarlet City," O'Brien said, "we grieve the closure of a local congregation but are committed to continuing the legacy of providing a space for multiple churches and organizations to call home. We are excited to have a place to serve our community for the years ahead."

The final services for North Community Lutheran will take place at 9 and 11 a.m. June 2, Minot said, with a special "leave-taking" led by the Rev. Suzanne Darcy Dillahunt, bishop of the Southern Ohio Synod, set for 3 p.m.

"That slams the book, and we're done," Mounts said.

kparks@thisweeknews.com

@KevinParksTW1