Among the final acts to complete the decommissioning, Saylor removed symbolic objects that gave the church its identity as a house of worship. The church, land and all items with it were released for honorable use, he said.
Picking up the two silver chalices from the alter, Saylor reminded the congregation to remember the many times people have communed at the church, thanking God for the mystery.
“Taking the cup and bread symbolizing Jesus Christ’s love for us and removing this recognizes that mystery will not come again for us in this building,” he said.
Saylor then picked up the Bible and stand, asking the congregation to remember how much the Word of God was preached in the building.
“Jesus Christ has been proclaimed here every Sunday, but will not be proclaimed here again,” he said.
The candles were the final items removed, which Saylor said symbolized the presence of Christ.
“It doesn’t seem right to blow the candles out,” he said, “but in doing so we recognize this building is no longer a sanctuary.”
The final act was disbanding the congregation itself.
“We are thankful for the many ways (the congregation) has served the mission given to it by Christ,” he said. “It has accomplished its purpose. We declare it no longer a United Methodist congregation and is now disbanded.”
Even though the church and congregation are disbanded, Saylor emphasized the importance of each member continuing on.
“We remain part of Christ’s ongoing church,” he said, “and as we scatter to other congregations, we are still one with Christ, one with each other and one of ministry to all the world until Christ comes in final victory and we feast at his heavenly banquet.”
As part of the final service, members of the congregation, former church members and pastors were given an opportunity to talk about their fondest memories.
Mary Olson, of Marion, said she was baptized and married at the church.
No church records were kept before 1938, so the first wedding on record was Maurice and Essie (Stolle) Clark, according to information compiled by LaVonne Ammeter, 80, longtime member.
Later weddings included Everett and Cerece (Dowell) Wade, Joyce and Frederick Barker, Dorene and Ronald Kirkpatrick, Sherol and Marvin Nightengale, Don and Ruth Gillet and Donella and Ron Humphries.
Before others spoke of their personal church memories, David Raglund, Summit UMC pastor for the past five years and also pastor at Peabody UMC, read letters from former pastors Roy Nelson and David Randall, who both were unable to attend the final service.
Nelson lightheartedly wrote that he was responsible for getting rid of the bees in 1965—but the bees resurfaced 10 years later—while a student minister at the church.
“God is the only one who knows how many lives were touched in this church, how many characters developed, how many broken hearts ministered to and how many lives were brought into this church,” he stated.
“All these ministries and more have taken place in the past and will continue into the future through the lives of those your congregation has helped to shape, mine included.”
Randall recalled enjoying his time at the church.
“I remember when I first came out (to the church), I wanted to sit around and talk,” he wrote. “But (congregation) wanted a full worship service from the pulpit.”
Gary Brooks, Wichita East district superintendent and pastor at the church in 1976, talked about his experiences there.
“I was extremely nervous,” he said, about his first service. “It was Feb. 29, 1976, down at the (Summit) school house. My first pulpit was a kitchen table and the offering plate was a Chinette paper plate colored with a smiley face.”
Brooks said Maude Gaines waved her arms at him, saying he would do OK as long as she didn’t have to play too many songs.
In June 1975, the church was struck by a tornado that moved it several inches off its foundation, according to historical information.
Brooks was assigned to the church before the building was repaired. One of his earlier memories was a fix-up day, sprucing up the building after the storm.
“It was a powerful experience with bees in the windows the day we painted, and I wouldn’t go near the door,” he said.
Brooks said he remembered Maude went in and started painting.
“A lot of bees were painted white that day,” he said.
Chuck Hadley, a former pastor at Summit from 1954-55, said he remembered church dinners always being fried chicken and the homemade pies from the ladies of the church.
“I have many memories of this church,” he said.
Olson said she also remembered Hadley and how he would go through the back door and lift up every pot lid to see what was cooking.
“I was also privileged to be baptized by him,” she said.
One member said she could remember seven or eight student pastors starting at the church.
Patti Gaines, another member, said she remembered when Pastor Nelson was conducting children’s services and her son, Ty, would participate.
“Ty would say, ‘See my muscle?’ and Pastor Nelson would respond, ‘That’s a very nice muscle, Ty.’”
A lot of dinners were held at the church. One member recalled how everyone seemed to get along without running water in the facility.
“I remember one dinner here,” a member said, “when the wash water was thrown out the window on Uncle Roy (who was walking by).”
Others remember ice cream socials, oyster and chili soup suppers and Christmas and Easter programs.
One former pastor spoke about the Summit Ladies Aide and how their mission has remained the same throughout the history of the church.
These women, he said, went from house to house doing whatever was needed, whether that meant quilting, piecing quilts or mending.
Some people remember the pot-bellied stove in the middle of the church and gas lanterns hanging on long wires from the ceiling that were taken down and pumped up to make more light.
Electricity was installed in 1948. Not long after, some members recalled a gas furnace was added.
One member recalled Joyce Barker’s great-grandfather built the church pulpit, while another said she was going to miss singing old gospel songs.
According to historical records, the first church was organized in 1879 and named Summit United Brethren Church. Due to changes in affiliation, it was later renamed Summit United Evangelical and until its deconsecration was Summit UMC.
After sharing tearful memories, Raglund preached the final sermon, “One More Time.”
In his closing, he talked about the certainty of change.
“As a church we gather one last time to remember all this church has been to us, to celebrate the grace and goodness of God,” he said. “Today, we are at a change point in our lives as we say ‘goodbye’ and move on to be in ministries in other churches.”
Members were assured that they are still a part of God’s family, he said, and that God hasn’t finished with them yet.
“God is still calling each of us into ministry even though this church may no longer be part of God’s plan,” Raglund said.
Following the service, members, guests and visitors continued to sharer church memories, visited family members in the church cemetery and said their last farewells.
In the final weeks before its closing, the congregation numbered nine on a regular basis with 36 members on the rolls.
The average offering in recent weeks ranged from $165 to $175 and last year’s average attendance was 14.