Author: Canaan Congregational Church

Obituary: Rev. Dr. Charles “Charlie” Close

The Rev. Charles C. Close, pastor of the Canaan Congregational Church in Canaan, NY, died on Thursday, April 23, 2020 after a brief illness. His loss comes on top of many others for the small Southern New England Conference church: three other men active in the life of the congregation have passed since the church stopped in-person worship in March, although none were lost to COVID-19.

In addition, the church lost its building to a fire in the fall of 2017; they constructed a new building and moved back in December, 2019.

Associate Conference minister Jill Graham met with the congregation via Zoom following their pastor’s death. During the month of May, Quentin Chin – Interim Pastor at First Congregational Church of Southampton – will offer online worship with the congregation each Sunday.

Rev. Close – Charlie – was well known around the Conference, having served many congregations throughout the New England area including Immanuel Community Church, Concord NH; Central Congregational Church, Orange, MA; Union Congregational Church, Rockville CT; North Falmouth Congregational Church, North Falmouth MA; and Wilbraham United Church, Wilbraham MA; before coming to the Canaan church. He led congregations in a variety of settings and valued each one as unique and beautiful.

He was the beloved husband of the Rev. Jane Tanaskovic Brady-Close, devoted father of Jennifer Close-Conlon (Josh Conlon) and Steven Close (fiancée Lisa Reburn), grandfather of David, Xander, Aylah, and Samuel. Charlie is also survived by his loving sister Joy Close (Susan O’Loughlin), nieces, a nephew, and cousins. Charlie was predeceased by his wife Karen Mackie Close, son David Charles Close, and sister Elizabeth Close.

Born the son of Charles Walker and Betsy Cade Close, Charlie grew up in Levittown, NY, and Wellesley, MA. He was a graduate of Boston University School of Education, and Andover-Newton Theological School (MDiv, DMin), where he was a member of the Jonathan Edwards Honor Society.

Charlie’s greatest delight was time with family and friends. He also appreciated music, theater, design, and the beauty of the natural world. He relished people and gatherings and offering the hospitality of his home. He loved to sing and play the guitar, had a stellar wit, and was a true and faithful friend. Charlie had the gift of warmth and was a calming presence, serving many as wise counsel and witness through life’s moments and challenges. His life was a testimony to God’s love and grace.

Prior to his seminary education, Charlie was a special needs teacher for the Ipswich MA, public schools, camp waterfront director, swimming instructor and coach. He was an advocate for the needs of others, serving in a faithful, kind, professional, and hands-on manner, rooted in his sense of the binding of heart and soul in covenantal relationships and in prayerful discernment.

Active in the broader United Church of Christ, he served on the Massachusetts Conference Board of Directors, in leadership roles in the Barnstable and Franklin Associations, and as consultant for Partners in Education. He also served his beloved Star Island Community on the Star Island Corporation Board of Directors and Finance Committee, and as a long-standing All Star I Conference Minister and teacher.  Some years ago, Charlie wrote: “Well, I’ve led some pretty spectacular services, speaking to hundreds of people, and hearing incredible music. But my most meaningful experiences happen in those quite moments where God’s love and grace shine through.”

Those who so desire may make donations in memory of Charlie to the Star Island Annual Fund, Morton-Benedict House, 30 Middle Street, Portsmouth NH 03801 (Star Island being a place of refreshment and learning for generations of the Close family) or to Canaan Congregational Church, PO Box 66, Canaan NY 12029 (Charlie’s congregation at the time of his death, where he lovingly led them in their efforts to rebuild following a devastating fire).

The interment at Belleville Cemetery, in Newburyport, MA will be private due to COVID-19 social distancing and gathering limitations. Plans for a memorial service will be shared when we are all able to gather again and enjoy a celebration of his life.

Weekly Devotionals

While we are unable to be together as a church family, Rev. Close is posting a weekly devotional on the Canaan Congregational Church Facebook page (at Facebook, scroll down to “Videos” and click on “Greetings and Devotions”):

Devotionals will continue to be posted until the congregation can meet together again in the church. Coming up are

  • April 5—Palm Sunday Devotional with Home Communion
    Palms will be placed against the front door of the church for anyone who would like to swing by and pick up a palm for their home devotional.
  • April 9—Maundy Thursday Devotional sharing Jesus’ Last Supper and Passion
  • April 12—Special Easter Devotional
  • April 19—Second Sunday of Easter Devotional
  • April 26—Third Sunday of Easter Devotional

The Tree of Life by Katharine Houk

fabric art banner depicting the tree of life in greens and with red apples with the Celtic spiral in the tree leaveswith the Shaker proverb "hands to work, hearts to god"
Tree of Life banner created by Katharine Houk

Hanging in the new sanctuary of the Canaan Congregational Church is a colorful fabric banner depicting the Tree of Life, with words across the top that say “Hands To Work, Hearts To God.” I immersed myself in the creation of this Tree of Life banner, which took more than eight hundred hours to design and create. It is a gift expressing my love for God, Life, and our Canaan Congregation.

About eight years ago, the Deacons of the congregation asked me to make a banner for the church. The fruit of that discussion was the Tree of Life idea, with a verbal message from the Shaker tradition. I began work on the banner, but soon was stricken with a serious, rare illness, which sidelined the banner work until relatively recently. With my health much improved, I was able to complete the banner just in time for the dedication of our new worship space. Had I not set the work aside for a time, it could have gone up in flames when our church building burned.

Trees nurture each other as do the members of the church family at Canaan Congregational Church

The Tree of Life has surfaced as an important religious symbol in many traditions, in differing forms, carrying a variety of meanings: love, peace, honoring of ancestors, growth and strength, harmony, family, fertility, wisdom, immortality and rebirth, and a connection to everything. In the Celtic tradition, the Tree of Life is depicted in multiple forms. The roots represent the “otherworld,” the trunk represents the mortal world and connects the roots and branches, and the branches represent the world above, or the heavens. When they cleared their lands, the ancient Celts, who held great reverence for trees, would leave one single tree standing in the middle. They would hold their important gatherings under this tree and it was a very serious crime to cut it down. It represented harmony and balance and was an important symbol in the Celtic culture.

“She (Wisdom) is a Tree of Life to those who take hold of her; those who hold her fast will be blessed.” — Proverbs 3:18 (New International Version)

In the Judeo-Christian tradition, there are several references to the Tree of Life. The first is in the Book of Genesis. It is a tree that grows within the Garden of Eden and is the source of eternal life. In Christianity, some believe it to be the symbol of humanity free from corruption and sin, while others believe it to represent love. The tree is believed to have healing properties, and its fruit grants immortality. Because Islam honors many stories from the Bible, the Tree of Life, which appeared in Eden, is known as the Tree of Immortality in the Quran. Buddhists have the Bodhi Tree, under which the Buddha achieved enlightenment.

The choice of the Tree of Life is of deep meaning to me personally because I have been a tree lover all my life. As a very young child, I used to think that the trees swaying on a windy day were expressing themselves by creating the wind with their dancing movement. My scientist parents promptly disabused me of this notion, but I continued to think of trees as marvelous and very alive beings. Now science is discovering that trees do indeed “communicate” with one another underground, via tiny white strands of fungus in the soil called mycelium: Trees nurture each other as do the members of the church family at Canaan Congregational Church.

First Worship Service in the New Building on December 15, 2019

On November 6, 2017, a fire engulfed and destroyed our 190-year-old brick Canaan Congregational Church building beyond repair. But we’ve been busy, holding worship services at the Canaan Firehouse on Route 295 just east of the church and spearheading all the necessary steps in erecting a new church home. The congregation’s exile is now over, and on December 15, Canaan Congregational Church welcomes congregants and friends to celebrate worship services in our new church building, erected on the footprint of the old structure.

 Join us on December 15 at 10 a.m. with coffee hour to follow

Designed by Ann Vivian AIA of Guillot, Vivian, Viehmann Architects (GVV) of Burlington, Vermont, the new building is energy efficient, low maintenance, and fully handicapped accessible, with room for socializing and worship services. Working with Vivian and the church’s building committee, Tim Schroder of Enginuity Engineering and Design of Chatham, New York, oversaw the entire process from demolition through completion of the new facility’s construction.

front of the new church with red doors on a wooden and metal panel background. a small wooden cross is in the gable end and snow shows that the move in day is in winter
Moving in to the new church building

Pastor Charlie Close says, “We now have a flexible, welcoming space that can be used for worship, meetings, and community events. We were able to salvage a few items from the fire, and owing to the fine woodworking skills of some of our members, we have door handles and a desk made from the wood of the old pews. By honoring our past, we can move faithfully and intentionally into a new chapter.”

front entrance room of the new church with slate tiles and carpeting and lots of light coming through the french door type windows
The first walk through on December 8, 2019

With an official certificate of occupancy on hand and a small punch list of items remaining to be tackled, the church is ready to welcome members and friends to worship on December 15 at 10 a.m. with coffee hour to follow, after which regular worship services will be held in the new building on Sundays at 10 a.m.

interior of the sanctuary at the Canaan Congregational Church showing the Celtic cross influenced window
Our sanctuary is nearly ready

The Canaan Congregation is full of gratitude for the warm welcome by St. Peter’s Presbyterian Church, in Spencertown, New York, for the past two Christmas Eves, but is excited to celebrate in our new home this coming Christmas Eve, Tuesday, December 24 at 5 p.m., with familiar Christmas readings, interspersed with traditional carols and special music by the choir.

Join us Christmas Eve, Tuesday, December 24 at 5 p.m. for a family friendly celebration!