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    once-thriving Granite City church will close Sunday after 118 years Archived Message

    Posted by Riverbender on August 5, 2019, 9:27 am

    Dorothy Kinney hasn’t cried much, but she expects tears to flow Sunday, when St. Peter Evangelical United Church of Christ in Granite City holds its last worship service.

    She and other Leadership Team members made the decision in January to sell their buildings and “dissolve” the 118-year-old church, which was founded by German immigrants and served 350 members at one time. Only about 15 people are active today.

    “This has been foretold for a long time,” said Kinney, 89, a retired legal secretary who has attended St. Peter for 70 years. “But when it really came down to saying, ‘We’re going to close the church,’ I thought we had failed, that we had let down the generations before us. I never thought I would be one of the people to close this church. It’s sad.

    “But now I feel the time is right, and we have been blessed to have this go as smoothly as it is going, and this really worthwhile organization has chosen St. Peter as its home, and the sanctuary will house a new church start. Every portion of our property will be used for the good of many.”

    Kinney was referring to Family Treehouse, a non-profit organization that provides summer lunches to children in 43 communities, groceries to at-risk families in 14 school districts and hot meals, fellowship and entertainment to senior citizens in Granite City. It also operates a mobile market.

    The organization bought the St. Peter sanctuary building, parsonage and two-story education annex on Cleveland Boulevard for $1.

    “This will allow our programs to continue to grow,” said founder the Rev. Lisa Guilliams, 57, former pastor at Trinity United Methodist Church in Granite City for 16 years. “We’ve never owned our own property where we could expand or add a new building if we needed to.”

    The St. Peter sanctuary will be used by a new non-denominational church called “Thrive.” It was started last spring by the Rev. Mike Rayson, 45, a native Australian, musician and former directing pastor of Nameoki United Methodist Church in Granite City for five years.

    Both Guilliams and Rayson left their Methodist churches to join forces as co-pastors of Thrive, which has been meeting temporarily at St. Bartholomew’s Episcopal Church.

    “He’s the teaching pastor, and I’m really going to focus on outreach and missions,” Guilliams said.

    Thrive will hold its first service in the St. Peter sanctuary at 10 a.m. Aug. 11. Family Treehouse already is moving into the education annex, and Guilliams has been renovating the parsonage, where she plans to live.

    Family Treehouse has two main programs: Twigs, which battles childhood hunger; and FIGS (Fellowship Involving Granite Seniors). Both formed as Trinity outreaches and evolved into non-profit organizations.

    “We’re funded by grants and donations,” Guilliams said. “We don’t get any federal or state money at all. We don’t have any paid staff. We have over 600 volunteers.”
    Kinney isn’t the only St. Peter leader trying to look on the bright side of the church’s closing. Vice Moderator Bob Braundmeier, 80, a retired letter carrier, noted that money left in the church’s bank account will be donated to 16 local charities.

    But Braundmeier admits that his life will change dramatically after Sunday. He’s been attending St. Peter for 69 years. His wife, Carol, also serves on the Leadership Team.

    “The phrase ‘man without a country’ comes to my mind,” Braundermeier said. “I’m a man without a church.”

    Other leaders are Hedy Mees, Wesley Doolittle, moderator and treasurer; and Church Secretary Carolyn Anders, the only paid staff member.

    In the early 2010s, St. Peter became a “training church,” where young pastors-to-be got practice before their ordinations. More recently, the United Church of Christ has provided “supply pastors” (substitutes) to lead Sunday morning services.

    The Leadership Team gathered in the fellowship hall this week to reminisce and look at old photo albums. The stage was stacked with furniture, books, wall hangings and other items that will be distributed to church members who want them.

    Family Treehouse will inherit folding tables and chairs, pots and pans. Records will go to the archives department at Eden Theological Seminary in Webster Groves, Missouri.

    “I’m not sure what we’ll do with our memorial wall,” Kinney said of wooden plaques in a hallway honoring members who have died over the years. “I guess we’ll leave them here.”

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