A search for fall colors took me past a neat, well-kept white frame church at the corner of Highway 34 and Route U near the Cape – Bollinger county line close to Crump.There was nothing really spectacular about it, but my rule of thumb is that if it catches my attention, then it deserves at least a couple frames. (Click on the photos to make them larger.)
There was a fairly modern sign post out front that proclaimed it was New McKendree at Lake Girardeau. There was space below the name for a message, but it was left empty.
I was just about to pull out of the parking lot when a woman walked by. I gave her a wave, which she returned. When she unlocked the door, I asked if I could take a look inside.
It turned out the woman was Renee Gordon, who was hoping to close on the building this week. She plans to turn it into an art studio, gallery and school of the arts.
The church has changed names several times over the years, having been known as the Gravel Hill Methodist Church for a long time. She thought the building might be as much as 125 years old, but I found a 1997 Missourian story about Cape county churches that said the fieldstone foundation made it look like it might have been built in the 1930s. In 1997, the church still had an outhouse. It has a modern kitchen and bathrooms today.
Great space for a studio
I expected to see a dimly-lit, rundown auditorium with rows of dark pews lining the room, but Renee said what you see is essentially what the church left – open space with nice lighting and beautiful floors. It also still has the bell in the tower, and a rope hangs down in the lobby / kitchen area if you are moved to ring it (I didn’t want to ask).
A scan of the Missourian’s archive turned up lots of funeral services, potluck dinners, homecoming affairs and other typical happenings of a small rural church.
One story DID catch my eye: in 1927 a man (I don’t think it’s necessary to name him after all these years) was given a fine of $20 and 15 days in jail for disturbing religious worship at the Gravel Hill Methodist church, “but he was paroled as to the jail sentence pending good behavior.”