Archive for Wednesday, September 8, 2004

Offers of financial help may save church

September 8, 2004

It appears that the Tonganoxie Friends Church likely won't fall victim to the bulldozer.

About four months ago, the Rev. Paul Waters of the Tonganoxie Methodist Church floated a plan that would entail purchasing both the Good Shepherd Thrift Shop and the Friends Church and using those properties as parking lots for his parishioners.

"We've made an offer to purchase the property from the Friends Church, and basically they're working through their property committee about what their action is going to be," Waters said Tuesday. "We haven't heard anything."

The Friends Church, built in 1893 at Fourth and Shawnee, and the parsonage next door are owned by the Friends Yearly Meeting in Wichita. And it appears the group is looking more at refurbishing the old church than selling the property for use as a parking lot.

Last week, David Robinson, general superintendent of Evangelical Friends Church and Mid-America yearly Meeting in Wichita, said a move is under way to save the old church.

"We've had a number of offers from people who once had been associated with the church," Robinson said.

Those offers of financial assistance are contingent on the restoration, re-growth and revitalization of the Friends Church in Tonganoxie -- at the existing location.

In a few weeks, a committee will begin discussions in earnest about the church's future, in light of these offers.

"One of the things that we would need to do would be to invest some funds of our own, which we have very little of," Robinson said.

Returning the church to viability is key.

"Our major objective all along has not been to abandon Tonganoxie in our ministry there," Robinson said. "But we have a very small congregation, which for all practical purposes does not seem to be viable."

But considering the unprecedented growth in the Tonganoxie area and the offers of assistance, Robinson said, it makes sense to look at how to solve that problem.

Robinson said Friends churches in Eudora, Lawrence and Kansas City will be consulted about the Tonganoxie church.

"We want to find out for sure how much effort they would like to put into getting something going there and that type of thing," Robinson said. "The jury's still out. But I'm hopeful that there will be something significant that takes place."

The Methodist minister also had hoped to take over the Good Shepherd Thrift Shop property. But co-director Dorothy Korb said that's not feasible -- unless Good Shepherd can find an affordable and practical building. And that isn't on the immediate horizon.

"We would like to find something, but it would have to be affordable," said Korb, adding that affordability is an obstacle. "We do need a larger building, that's for sure."

For now, it appears the Methodists' hopes for additional parking won't be fulfilled anytime soon. And while Waters said the future might bring a new location for the church, that's not occurring soon.

"That's sort of what was looming as a possibility," he said. "But this congregation is very committed to this location."

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