Historic Mennonite Church won't see its centennial
Dwindling congregation opts to raze church built in 1915
PAWNEE ROCK — A small Mennonite Church that opened in 1915 in central Kansas will not see its centennial, after the few members that still attend services decided to close it in June and then have it torn down.
Bergthal Mennonite Church near Pawnee Rock in Barton County will hold a memorial gathering on May 26. Its final service will be June 30.
The church began when Russian Mennonites established a colony near Dundee in 1875. They built a wood frame church near Pawnee Rock in 1899, which was replaced by the current structure in 1915, The Great Bend Tribune reported.
Attendance reached around 260 in 1953 but began to decline along with the rural population. Today, only about 14 people regularly attend Sunday services, said Lynn Schlosser, who has served as pastor since 2002 but became a part-time pastor in 2007.
The members began discussing closing the church 2 1/2 years ago and finally decided razing it would be the best way to honor its history.
“Once you sell it you lose control of what happens to it,” Schlosser said. “It would be very hurtful for members to see it fall in on itself. We’ve all seen empty churches fall apart in the country. We thought this church deserved better than that.”
The building can’t be moved and would be costly to maintain, she said. The roof has leaked for years and there is water damage and mold. Members plan to try and save the stain glass windows, the cornerstone, woodwork and a few memorial bricks. A monument will be erected at the cemetery near the church.