The Hancock-Henderson Quill, Inc.
by Dessa Rodeffer, Quill Publisher/Owner
Nearly 100 years of ownership of the Presbyterian Manse in Stronghurst may come to an end this year if their church board is successful in its endeavor to sell the home in a sealed bidding process in the upcoming month.
The Presbyterian Church of Stronghurst was organized in February 1889, shortly after the town was platted on November 18, 1887, and its first church building was one of the early structures of the emerging town, dedicated October 27, 1889.
From 1902 to 1914, the Presbyterian Church housed their first three pastors in a home where Jack McKeown lived on the southeast corner of the village park, before building the present Manse in 1915 across from their church. Their first manse was sold to J. W. Stine located on lots 32, 33, 34, and 35 for $2,500.
The United Presbyterian Church purchased lots 13, 14, and 15 on Oct. 8, 1914 for $500 and erected the present manse.
The following year, the congregation installed their fourth pastor, Rev. Kenneth Reid Anderson, who was first to live in the present manse along with his wife and three children from 1915 until 1921.
Since that time, nine more pastors have lived in the manse:
The Rev. John A. Mahaffey 1922-31; Rev. George W. Hutton 1931-36; Rev. William John Giffin 1936-47; Rev. Ralph McAuley 1948-54; Rev. Dr. Chris Lunan 1955-64; Rev. Dr. John Castle, Jr. 1965-74; Rev. Ernest Peterson 1975-1991; and Rev. Christine Conrath 1993-98; Rev. John Deal 2001-2003.
Presently the church has installed Pastor Pam Moore as their part time lay pastor, also serving the Presbyterian Church at Media. She commutes by car from her and her husband's farm home in rural Monmouth.
The board of trustees conducted a congregational meeting Sunday afternoon which resulted in an unanimous vote to sell the manse and three lots by sealed bids with proceeds going to local mission projects.
The sale of a church home is tied to a lot of emotions for those who have been lifelong members of the church and who have seen the manse not only as a home for pastors, but also as an important gathering place for members over the years.
Rev. Ernest and Evelyn Peterson retired to Fort Collins, Colorado and lived in the manse sixteen years said they housed the pastor's study in the manse and they held many elder, trustees, deacons, and missionary meetings in the home as well as youth group activities.
Don Fry, Clerk of Session, said, "Yes, it is true we are selling the manse, but it is not something we have done without a lot of thought and preparation.
Fry explained that they have weighed the emotions and the impact that the sale might have on members of the congregation, and the board concluded that to continue leaving the manse vacant would not wisely serve any mission of the church.
"Rather than leave the home vacant and continue to use the church's money for upkeep and utilities, and serving no purpose other than to maintain, the board feels they would better serve the mission of the church by selling the Manse in a plan that would serve others through local projects.
"We are having the bidding process begin May 24-June 24 in hopes the future buyer can have possession by September.
The church is keeping the facility heated and cooled and is taking care of maintenance of the property since its vacancy in 2003. They have little reason to believe they will have an installed pastor living in the manse in the near future.
"With more ministers preferring a house allowance in which they can build equity rather than have a home provided for them, we feel that the sale of the manse is the best solution for now and for the future," Fry said.
In the Presbytery Of Great Rivers Constitution, it says:
"As a church, we own property and other capital assets as a tool to carry out the mission of Christ's Church."
The final approval of the sale will be from Presbytery in their role to ensure that the proposal is fiscally sound and that it will serve to further the kingdom of God.
In The Board's Proposal to the congregation on which they voted upon Sunday, it stated:
"the sale of the house will not only provide relief to the congregation for its regular upkeep and maintenance, but the proceeds willalso enable the congregation to provide significant financial support to existing local mission projects, and provide seed money to new and emerging mission needs."
The Manse is located at 221 South Division just east across from the Presbyterian Church in Stronghurst. Fort and Neff Attorney At Law in Stronghurst is in charge of receiving the written bids. The house is to be offered for sale to the highest bidder whose bid exceeds the minimum selling price.
Clerk Don Fry is listed as the contact for viewing the property and home and an open house for viewing the Manse is planned for this Sunday, May 27th from 2 to 5 p.m..