Parishioners from St. James Anglican Church in Newport Beach wiped tears from their eyes as they exited the church after its final service Sunday, leaving behind a building that housed many memories for them and their families.
Jim Dale, 63, said he has been attending church at St. James since he was a young boy, making the move a particularly difficult one for him.
"Being in there today, all the memories came flooding back," he said. "There are so many memories: my communion, meeting my wife, marrying my wife. It all happened here."
Future St. James church services will be held at Mariner's Christian School in Costa Mesa after an Orange County Superior Court judge granted property ownership rights to the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles in July.
Judge Kim G. Dunning's ruling ended nine years of litigation following disputes between St. James members and the Episcopal Church about the ordination of a gay bishop and other issues that led to St. James disaffiliating with the Episcopal Church and aligning with the Anglican Church.
"I give thanks for the culmination of this marathon litigation, and I pray this action will settle the fact that people can disagree but cannot take property that has been entrusted to the Episcopal Church for ministry," the Right Rev. J. Jon Bruno, bishop of the six-county diocese, said in a statement. "I give thanks to God that, after these cases spanning more than eight years, we now can proceed with the continuing ministry of the Episcopal Church in Newport Beach."
However, St. James Chancellor Myron Steeves believes the church still has rights to the property and plans to appeal the judge's ruling in the next month.
"We hope to be back soon," he said. But an appeal could take several years, he added.
The Rev. Richard Crocker spoke about the move during his sermon, encouraging parishioners to release any anger, bitterness or resentment they may feel toward the Episcopal Diocese.
"Look ahead with trust in the future of St. James," he said. "Maybe one day the other side will be in this boat."
Cheri Dale said the church has been more to her family than simply a place of worship.
"St. James has been such a wonderful family to us," she said. "We're going to miss it very deeply."
Crocker emphasized the significance of the move, but reminded his congregation that everything they appreciate about St. James will continue at the new location.
"It will be the same people. The walls will just be different," he said.
The first services at Mariner's Christian School, 300 Fischer Ave., will be on Sept. 22, at 7:30, 9 and 11 a.m.