Archive for Thursday, August 24, 2006

A glimpse back in time

Titime capsule reveals artifacts from Eudora United Methodist Church’s early days

August 24, 2006

The whole congregation wanted a glimpse at the box's contents -- something to make the transition between past and future more tangible, more real.

Members of the Eudora United Methodist Church leaned in Sunday to see what church members had left them back in 1921, when they hid this box behind the cornerstone of the now-retired church building at Seventh and Church streets.

"Here's the moment we've all been waiting for," the Rev. Michael Tomson-DeGreeff told the congregation.

The box had been sitting in the damp cornerstone of the old church for 85 years, waiting for new eyes to examine its contents.

The old church stood fairly empty after an auction Saturday, and here in the chapel of Warren-McElwain Mortuary's Eudora Chapel -- its temporary house of worship -- the congregation will wait for builders to finish its new home near Kansas Highway 10.

But before members bid the old building farewell, they fussed for hours last week digging the copper time capsule out of layers of mortar in the church walls.

"It was supposed to just take half a day," Don Bradshaw said. "It was like breaking out of a jail cell."

Bradshaw and stonemason J.R. Follars of Jayhawk Masonry weren't positive at the time that the box even existed -- until they heard the clang of metal on metal while digging around the cornerstone.

Church leaders had a hunch that a time capsule might be buried behind the cornerstone, a tradition at many American churches.

So in the congregation's temporary home Sunday, Bradshaw patiently snipped through the aged black and green box, pulled back the flap of metal and waited while Tomson-DeGreeff pulled out its contents.

But with one touch, things began to disintegrate. Papers inside were rusted red and molded black. The edges fell apart with a touch.

The congregation saw: Much of what was inside was ruined.

"This is like the Dead Sea scrolls," Tomson-DeGreeff said.

He slowly removed what was left of a handwritten note, an old Eudora newspaper and a Bible, all badly worn by the elements.

Apparently, some moisture must have crept through the box's copper walls and sealed top.

Bradshaw said he had worried something like that would happen, but he was pleased with what did make it through the years intact.

"There are some good things," he said. "The names are important."

Those names appeared on a roster of church members back in 1921 -- the group who helped establish the old church.

At the end of church Sunday, after the box had been opened, Tomson-DeGreeff read aloud some of the more recognizable names from that list, then laid out the remains of the artifacts for the congregation to see.

Church member Arlene Lawson, for one, was happy with what was left. Lawson had been preparing the time capsule for the new church building and said seeing the old list cemented what she would leave for the next generation of Eudora United Methodist Church members.

"I'm real happy about that list," she said. "The names of the subscribers, just to see if they were listed in there."

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