A Heritage of Faith
Thursday 30th of June 2011 08:45 AM
By Kim L. Fritzemeier
KFRM Central Kansas Reporter
Farm Wife along the Stafford/Reno County Line
Note - While this blog post talks about a specific small, rural church, I hope it conjures up memories of churches in which readers have been a part during their lifetimes. With a few rural churches closing each year, it may do us good to remember the past, as we look to the future of our rural communities. As the childhood song goes, "The church is not a building, the church is not a steeple, the church is not a dwelling place, the church is a people."
It's a bittersweet moment to say goodbye to a childhood church. On June 26, after we sang the familiar words to Blest Be the Tie That Binds, we gathered to share stories and memories about the Byers United Methodist Church, the church that has been a touchstone in the community since 1905.
It was the home of my ancestors. The membership rolls include the names of many of my family members, including my great-great-grandfather/grandmother, Mr. and Mrs. J.J. Moore, who joined with my Dad's Dad, Lester Moore, at Christmas time in 1924 and the names of my mother and her sister Merlene in 1949 (albeit with my mom's name misspelled).
The Byers United Methodist Church was my church home for the first 15 years of my life. My parents carried me in the door as an infant. It was also the church of their childhood, since both grew up in the Byers community. They got married there in 1953.
And they were there at the closing service almost 58 years later.
The beautiful stained glass windows which adorn the sanctuary glowed in the light then and now.
My family's roots in the rural church ran deep. One of the pews had the names of a grandfather and an uncle I never knew. Both were killed in separate accidents when my Dad was just a boy.
And on the other side of the aisle, we always sat in the vicinity of the Shelby Neelly Family pew. Last Sunday, I insisted we move to that side of the church because it just "felt" right.
It's where my Grandma always had butter rum and wild cherry Lifesavers for wiggly kids. And her hankies could magically transform into a sleeping baby.
At the Byers UMC, we trick-or-treated for UNICEF. We had our little UNICEF milk cartons to collect change at the same time we collected homemade popcorn balls and Halloween candies.
My youngest sister remembers knocking this lighted picture of Jesus off the wall as a kid roughhousing with another little girl. It survived. She wasn't the only one to get in trouble at church. It only took one trip down the church aisle with my Dad during a church service to remember the expectations for pew behavior.
We sang around the downstairs piano for opening exercises, and I learned classic children's Bible songs like Deep and Wide, Oh Be Careful, This Little Light of Mine and Do Lord! And then years later, I taught them to my own children and my little Sunday School pupils.