By: Nicholas Gordon

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NEW YORK: April 4, 2173

Only 15 congregants showed up for what was billed as the last Easter service to be held anywhere in the world.

"We can't be sure, of course," said Ishmael Chao, who holds the title of Lay Leader of the Congregation. "But as far as we can tell, this is the only Christian church of any denomination left. So if this is our last Easter service, it's got to be the last Easter service anywhere."

It is not, however, the last service. The Church of Christ will hold services in its tiny room above a beauty parlor on Nostrand Avenue until the end of June, when its contract with Rev. Randolph Igbati, its part-time pastor, runs out.

"It just didn't make sense to keep going," Chao said. "Some Sundays there are just the three of us -- me, Emma, and Rev. Igbati."

"It's the Lord's will," said Emma Paley, a 123-year-old data entry specialist who has lived in this neighborhood all her life and remembers when there was a house of worship of some kind on just about every block. "Otherwise, it wouldn't be happening. When the world is ready, He'll be back."

But in his sermon, Rev. Igbati lamented the fact that "what is being lost today might never be regained."

"Over 2100 years ago," he said, "a love came into this world that had the power to transform each and every soul that turned to it, that opened to it like a flower to the sun. That love still shines as brightly as ever. But we have chosen night."

Miriamne Olsen, a professor of philosophy at Nouvelle University and author of The Death of Religion, has a different explanation.

"As people learn more and more, they tend to believe less and less," she said. "In earlier times people turned to myths to answer the Big Questions: How did the universe come into being? What is the meaning of life? What follows death? Now that science has found persuasive answers to some of these questions, and promises to discover more, the myths have lost their function."

"The two biggest blows to religion," explained Dr. Cheng Moriarity, professor of neuroscience at the University of Mirabeau, "were the discovery of a precise correlation between measurable brain activity and human thought and feeling, and the indefinite extension of human life. These two developments removed the twin pillars of religion -- the experience of the soul and the fear of death -- after which it was only a matter of time before the whole structure collapsed."

Still, the demise of Easter is "sad, very sad," lamented Mahmoud Christiansen, curator of the Museum of Religion at the old St. Patrick's Cathedral on Fifth Avenue. "I know it had to happen, but when such an old and beautiful tradition ends, well ... it's like someone dying."

Sentiments which were shared by the few congregants who stayed after the end of the last Easter service, as though reluctant to let it go.

"There, there," said Letitia McNamara as she hugged Rev. Igbati, who was in tears. "It's not goodbye. We'll be together till June."

"But where will Christ go when we're gone?" the Reverend asked. "Will He be a homeless wanderer with no place of His own?"

"Christ is in our hearts," Emma Paley said, everyone nodding. "We don't need a church for that."

"On the contrary," Rev. Igbati said. "Christ lives in the body of the church. The church is like a fire throwing off sparks that, after a brief burst skyward, fall to the cold, damp earth and go out. As long as the fire is burning, there will be sparks. Without the fire, when the last spark goes out, there will be nothing."

And on that bleak note, the last of the small congregation left the last Christian church left in the world, and the last Easter service was over.