GIRARD — Nearly 150 Easters have been celebrated at the historic First Presbyterian Church in Girard.
A member of the church since the 1960s, Girard resident Beverly Wilson would go to the church’s Maundy Thursday service, and of course the other Easter services which would follow.

Wilson has her spot in church, middle row and three pews up. She raised her children going to the church, and her grandchildren too when they came along.

Sadly, there are only three families left who still worship at the church. With only three families in the church, this group plans to close the doors, in the near future, Wilson said. She said the church used to be “very vital church in the community” but time took its toll on the church members, and the count went down.

Wilson said she hopes the building will be preserved as there were many memories which were had there — Easter services being one of them.

Along with Easter, Christmas Eve services are of her favorite memories of the church.
“We always had a nice Christmas Eve service,” she reminisced. “We had a candle light service.”
“We’d have a little vespers and a message, then we would all light candles at the end.”

Over the years, her church hosted community outreach programs, such as Meals on Wheels. The church also gave scholarships to the children and grandchildren of its members since 1982, Wilson said.
“We’ve been very fortunate that we’ve had various people donate money,” she said about the donors which allowed for such scholarships and also upkeep of the church.

Youth groups also went on mission trips to the southwest, Wilson said.

Since 1871 there had always been a Presbyterian church located at 200 North Summit, on the northeast corner of Walnut and Summit in Girard. The original building was “blown away” by a tornado in 1886, Wilson said.

In 1887, the current building was completed.
“This will blow your mind,” Wilson said. “It only cost $8,116.38 to build the church back then.”

Wilson said many people helped recreate the church on that corner. Several people also helped furnish the building over the years, including the pipe organ in the sanctuary.

Wilson said the church has one of the only pipe organs in town, which was a “big draw” for the church. The organ was installed in 1917.
“And we still have this beautiful pipe organ that works,” she said, adding that it’s been around for just over 100 years. “It’s just heavenly.
“A couple of weeks ago we had a girl who had been raised here — she’s an organist from Kansas City — her mother retired and we had a little reception for her mother who played the organ and she just made it sound wonderful.”

According to Wilson, when the organ was first installed people could pay 20 cents for lessons. The money would go toward paying for the electricity, she said.

Organ playing, choir and bell choirs sounds “acoustically perfect” in the congregation room, Wilson said everyone claims.

In 2009, the building was nominated to the National Register of Historic Places in 2009 and according to the Kansas Historical Society, the church was nominated for its “architectural significance as a good local example of Romanesque Revival architecture, believed to be the only such design for a Presbyterian Church in the state.”

Several people have stopped at the church for tours, Wilson said.

When the church was first built it had “theatre seats”, then later in 1912 oak pews were used, Wilson said. In 1986 the church upgraded the old pews to walnut pews from a Presbyterian Church in Pittsburg. These pews sit in the congregation room today.

Even the stained glass windows have history, Wilson said. Installed in approximately 1914, the windows were funded by members of the church and several windows have their names inscribed on them — the Winstons, the Gemmels, the Bruces, and the Haldemans.
“They’re beautiful,” she said.

Plaques were placed on several walls of who donated furnishings and plaques for items which were donated in memory of loved ones.

The group of current church goers is just too small to care for the church, so they plan to “close the doors,” Wilson said. In the near future, Wilson said she hopes that another organization would open the doors to the church again.
“There’s a lot of history in this church,” she said. “It would be a shame for it to go to rack and ruin.”

For the time being, the building is also home to First Christian Church until its new building is completed. The Presbytery will make the decisions on the building.

Although the church she loves will soon close, Wilson said she will still go to church. As a Scammon native, Wilson said she plans to visit the First Presbyterian Church in Scammon and the First Christian Church in Girard.