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Rural Missouri Magazine

Keeping the Faith
New book from Rural Missouri celebrates Missouri’s churches

by Jim McCarty
One church featured in the book is Immanuel Lutheran, built in 1912 on the prairie northeast of Lincoln.

From towering cathedrals to simple structures made from logs, Missouri’s churches add much to the landscape, culture and history of the state. Before these testaments to faith forever disappeared from the landscape, Rural Missouri set out to preserve the heritage of Missouri’s churches by sponsoring a new book.

We are proud to introduce “Faith of Our Fathers: The Churches of Missouri.” This book was made possible by hundreds of submissions from readers who share a common love for their churches.

Here for the first time, all aspects of Missouri’s churches are covered in a portrait that celebrates the great faith of the state’s citizens.

Written by Linda Kerns, the daughter of a preacher, with help from the staff of Rural Missouri magazine and its readers, this tribute to Missouri’s churches features photos and stories about churches of many faiths. Included are some of the state’s most historic churches, as well as modern churches that serve huge congregations using techniques such as satellite ministries and on-premise coffee shops for after-service fellowship.

“Faith of Our Fathers: The Churches of Missouri” begins with a brief history of religion in Missouri, from its early settlement Catholic Churches in St. Louis and Ste. Genevieve to the influx of Protestant faithful to churches founded by freed slaves.

Kingsville’s Marjorie Powell Allen Chapel is a treasured location for weddings and other events. The chapel was designed to blend nature and architecture. It is located on the grounds of Powell Gardens.

In this book, the reader will learn of the role Daniel Boone and his relatives played in establishing churches in Missouri. For example, the first site for Mt. Horeb Baptist Church in Mineola was the home of Samuel Boone, Daniel’s nephew.

The father of outlaw Jessie James, lead miner and Potosi’s founder Moses Austin, hatchet-wielding prohibitionist Carrie Nation and Abe Lincoln’s “other Mary” are among the colorful personalities mentioned in the book.

Mary Owens Vineyard, who attended Pleasant Ridge Baptist Church in Weston, could have married Abraham Lincoln. The Vineyard family has three letters in its possession in which the future president proposed to Mary.

How Missourians kept the faith during the trying Civil War years is another fascinating topic covered by the book. At Liberty Christian Church, organized in 1837, members defied Union orders not to hold any public meetings by continuing Sunday services. Told to close the church, Dr. William A. Morton, chief elder, replied, “I thank you sir, but I have orders from a higher officer than yours to have services and we plan to obey his command.”

More than one Missouri church was pressed into service as a field hospital during the Civil War. During the Battle of Pilot Knob, wounded Union soldiers were taken to Immanuel Lutheran Church. A blood stain on the floor of its parsonage room remains to this day.

One chapter focuses on people of faith, including Father Ferdinand Helias, the Jesuit priest who laid the foundations for seven central Missouri parishes; Methodist Bishop Alonzo Monk Bryan’s unusual drive-in church; Father Moses Berry’s Theotokos Unexpected Joy Orthodox Christian Ministry; and Father Augustus Tolton’s struggle to become the nation’s first black priest. Most of these stories were previously published in Rural Missouri.

This page taken from the book shows one of several log cabin churches still in use. Mt. Pisgah General Baptist Church at Silva was moved from another location in Wayne County.

Another chapter focuses on symbols of faith, including the magnificent stained glass windows at the Assemblies of God’s national headquarters in Springfield and the praying hands sculpture at Webb City. Yet another covers traditional methods of worship, such as brush arbor revivals, “dunk ’em in the river” baptisms and the Living Stations of the Cross put on by students at St. Francis Xavier School in Taos.

While many churches started as log cabins, at least three congregations continue to meet in simple log structures. Mt. Pisgah General Baptist Church at Silva was moved from another location in Wayne County and tastefully enlarged to meet the needs of today’s worshipers. Another log church, Cedar Hill Baptist at Edgar Springs, came into being after a vision by its founder, who dreamed of a crooked sapling growing on a slope.

Whether it’s the story of St. Joachim’s in Old Mines, where a former pastor is buried inside the church, or the fiery sermons and great fellowship enjoyed by generations of worshipers at the Shiloh Tabernacle in Quincy, readers will enjoy this chronicle of faith. Most heartening are the many tales of one church opening its doors to the congregation of another. In addition, the book relates how people of many faiths came together to rebuild a church after tragedy struck.

That’s what happened when vandals broke into Palmer Church and set it on fire to cover their tracks. Those near and dear to this church donated the money and labor to rebuild it exactly like it was before the fire, inside and out.

The ornate interior of the National Shrine of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal in Perryville is featured in a chapter called “Symbols of our Faith.”

The churches featured in this book range from the simple — such as Little Oaks Chapel near Chillicothe and the storefront Iglesia de Dios in Sedalia — to the monumental structures such as Jefferson City’s Cathedral of St. Joseph, Freeburg’s “Cathedral of the Ozarks” and the James River Assembly in Ozark that grew from four families to a megachurch that seats 3,000.

There are churches with impressive hand-carved altars as well as simple structures painted white whose only distinguishing feature is the time-polished surface of the pews.
Some of the churches will be familiar to anyone who has traveled in Missouri. St. Peter’s Church in Jefferson City is almost as famous in state history as the nearby Capitol.

Every four years, the governor is sworn into office when the church’s clock strikes noon. Following a fire that destroyed the Capitol in 1911, the church school was offered to the state. The House of Representatives accepted and the remainder of the 46th General Assembly was held here. Many consider it the “ninth Capitol of Missouri.”

The book has more than buildings. One chapter focuses on outdoor shrines, including the Lady of St. Joseph Shrine and Schnurbusch Karst Window at Apple Creek.

On the grounds of St. Joseph Church in Perry County is a natural formation called a karst window. Where a stream emerges from a cave wall, church members built an outdoor altar where services are held.

A Polish monk’s labor of love produced the Black Madonna Shrine near Eureka. And mothers are remembered at a shrine located near Laurie.

The book also mentions the Irish Wilderness settled by Father John Hogan, later bishop of Kansas City. Father Hogan carved the community out of the Ozarks so Irish people could live together in peace. However, the area became “no-man’s land” during the Civil War and its settlers mysteriously disappeared.

Lisa Hall is baptized in the waters of Brushy Creek, not far from where Donald Bybee built the Bethlehem Missionary Baptist Church. One chapter in the book focuses on church traditions such as baptisms, weddings and brush arbor revivals.

Adam-ondi-Ahman, located in northwest Missouri, is a historic site above the Grand River. It is considered one of the “crown jewels of church identity” by followers of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The site is open to visitors who can sit under shady trees and learn of the tragic history of the Mormons who considered the site sacred.

This hardcover book is 180 pages long and contains hundreds of photos in color along with many historic black and white images. It is about the size of a high school yearbook and was printed in Marceline, Mo. at Walsworth Publishing.

We hope you enjoy this book. For more information on ordering it, see the ad on page 39.

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