While traveling through western Kansas yesterday I came upon this historical marker. It tells a little bit of the story of the old Congregational Church in Garfield, Kansas...
Next to the marker was this small building. The old cornerstone gave clues about the original building and the historic congregation behind it...
This is all that remains of the old Congregational church. But inside there's a model of the original building. I've seen pictures of it before on the internet. There's also a small chapel room with a couple of pews.
I stopped in and read a portion of scripture that has come up a few times for me in differing places this summer -- Proverbs 8:22-31. It talks about the preexistence of divine wisdom (similar to the Christocentric focus of John 1:1-5), and it concludes with a word of how divine wisdom delights in humankind. It's a good passage to think about in terms of Jesus' command to love one another.
This little chapel is a nice place to visit and pray. It's a good legacy that the people of the old Garfield Congregational Church have left for us. But still it's just a roadside chapel, not a church. The church is not a building; the church is the people. There's no church if there are no people to love. That's why it's good for us to follow God's pattern and delight in one another.
Making my way out I took special notice of the historic bell. It was given by the (then) future U.S. President, James Garfield, as a gesture of thanks for naming the town after him. The first church building (according to the marker) was built in 1875, though the cornerstone says 1873. Garfield was inaugurated as President in March of 1881, but was assassinated only 6 months later. I can only imagine how this shook the community. There must have been a moving local memorial service.
Today the bell that Garfield gave is displayed prominently in the chapel...
Bells in churches are a relic from the agrarian cultures in Europe -- back before everyone had wrist their own time pieces. They were sounded to alert the peasants to come in from the fields for worship. It's an old custom, but it persists to this day in a different way. Both of the Congregational Churches I've pastored have had bells in them. Of course they don't serve the same function as they did in Europe. But their presence brings to mind the question of what prompts us to worship. Sometimes we need a nudge of some kind. As we hear church bells ring we can think about where God is sounding us towards, and what direction He is calling us in.