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St. Johns building sold; congregation moves to new location
Attendees at the Blessing of the Altar at the new location of St. Johns Episcopal Church are, front row, left to right: Ray Lahar, First Congregational United Church of Christ treasurer, Brad Shirer, Rose Kelly, Mother Teresa Lahar, Karen Klein-Martin and Leslie Mingenback. Back row from left: Assisting Bishop Michael Milliken, First Congregational Pastor Mike Munz and Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Western Kansas Mark Cowell.

The congregation at St. Johns Episcopal Church is relieved their building has been sold and are especially pleased it will remain a church, said Teresa Lahar, priest.

David Crawford, Great Bend, recently purchased the structure at 17th & Adams and is leasing it to Cross Winds of Kansas (CWOK) Bikers Church. It also is home to other groups. (See adjacent story).

St. Johns’ new home is the chapel at First Congregational United Church of Christ, 3400 21st. The street address for St. Johns is 2107 Tyler.

Lahar acknowledged that the necessary sale of the building was “disappointing but it was the reality of the situation. Nevertheless, our new relationship with First Congregational helps us cope with the transition and our church can become financially sustainable.

“We have more resources now for our local mission,” she added. “For example, we have teamed up with our new neighbors to periodically cook and serve a Sunday evening meal at the Dream Center. We are working in tandem to further our Christian work in the community.”

Other charitable efforts include: providing meals to school children; supporting foster families through CarePortal; Shrove Tuesday pancake dinner; and helping the less fortunate with utilities, housewares and appliances.

St. Johns hosted its Blessing of the Altar April 25 and its first Sunday service was May 1.

Lahar said “it was a good Sunday turnout and it had a good feeling. The chapel is small but we felt like we had a crowd,” she laughed.

Mike Munz, First Congregational pastor, said church members are pleased to have St. Johns worshipping in the chapel.

“As a gesture of hospitality and welcome, we provided a potluck meal to our St. Johns neighbors after their first service here,” Munz said. “We wanted them to feel at home in the building.

“In many ways,” he added, “this doesn’t seem like a new relationship because of our outreach to the Dream Center. With both churches in the same building now, all of us look forward to new ways of working together.”

Bishop Mark Cowell

Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Western Kansas Mark Cowell, who attended St. Johns’ Blessing of the Altar, noted the local Episcopal church that seated about 100 used to have “a pretty full house for Sunday services. That was no longer the case.”

For a variety of reasons, attendance diminished and the congregation couldn’t afford maintenance of such a large facility, Cowell noted.

“Most of their income was spent on the building, leaving no resources for the work that a church is called to do,” he elaborated. “St. Johns recognized this truth, and as painful as it was to say good-bye to a place of many memories and a treasured history, the decision to part ways was necessary.

“We love our buildings but we do not worship them,” he added. “St. Johns took a courageous step toward being the church that Jesus called us to be. The move takes the burden off their shoulders and allows the congregation to once again engage the community outside the walls that had become their cage.”

This transition provides some financial support for First Congregational and opens up “opportunities for cooperative efforts in building the kingdom. I see this as a great model moving forward,” Cowell said.

St. Johns building home to another church, grief and recovery groups

David Crawford indicated his reason for buying the building from St. Johns Episcopal Church was two-fold. (See adjacent story).

Crawford first mentioned the new location will be home to several grief meetings each week.

“My wife’s daughter was murdered last year in Great Bend,” Crawford explained. “Patricia lost a lot of her will to live. When this building became available, I thought it could be a place for grief sharing and a way to help Patricia with her sorrow.”

The second reason was finding a home for High on Life Recovery, which Crawford founded.

“Our mission is to integrate people in recovery to become active members of society again,” Crawford said, noting he has been in recovery for 41 years. “Addicts and alcoholics shy away from interacting with people. Drugs do that to you.

“But at High on Life, we live with what God gave us to bring glory to Him. “There are a lot of recovery groups but there is none like High on Life. You will be amazed at what you can gain when you open up to others.”

Crawford noted that since life is full of changes, “we let people know they can accept these changes without drugs and alcohol.”

He appreciates the support of OPI, Identifications, Plains State Bank, St. Johns, Carr Auction & Real Estate and Keller Real Estate.

The building also is the new home of Cross Winds of Kansas (CWOK) Bikers Church. Vic Link is the founder and his wife, Yvonne, is administrator. For information about the church’s mission and services, call 620-282-1908.

St. Johns Priest Teresa Lahar said she and the congregation welcomed CWOK to its new home.

“I don’t think you could find two more diverse congregations – the Episcopalians and bikers,” she commented. “But we all worship the same God. It impresses me how Christianity can come in so many flavors.”