When East Topeka United Methodist Church closed its doors for good in 2012 after serving the community for 133 years, one question remained: What would become of the congregation’s beautiful stained-glass windows?
As it turned out, most of the windows went to longtime members who purchased them as keepsakes, but a special one has found a new home in First United Methodist Church, 600 S.W. Topeka Blvd., which shared a long history with the East Topeka congregation.
At a 2 p.m. ceremony on Sunday, July 30, at First Methodist, that window will be dedicated in honor of former East Topeka church pastor, the Rev. Robert Harder, who later would become secretary of the Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services.
Harder, who gained a reputation as a voice for the disadvantaged, died in 2014 at the age of 84. He was a member of First Methodist at the time of his death.
Memorial funds in his honor were used to purchase the long, vertical stained-glass window from the East Topeka church, which features a depiction of a sheaf of wheat in the center.
Several of Harder’s family members, including his wife, Dottie, are expected to attend Sunday afternoon’s ceremony, which will be led by the Rev. E. Merris Brady, a former pastor of First Methodist.
Doris Wills was among several members of First United Methodist Church who selected the stained-glass window. She said it was the sheaf of wheat that led her and others to choose that particular window for placement in First Methodist.
Wills said she was committed to finding a stained-glass window from the East Topeka church, which was located at 708 S.E. Lime before it was torn down a few years ago.
She said the East Topeka church was started in the late 1800s largely through the support of First Methodist, and that the two congregations — which were members of the same denomination — remained close for more than 100 years.
“From the very beginning, my dream had been to get a window for our church,” Wills said, “because of the connection between the two churches.”
Wills said the window was purchased and placed in storage at First Methodist, where it sat in a Sunday school classroom for a couple years.
Then, she said, she began the work of getting it placed near the church’s History Wall, located just west of the sanctuary and which features photos and information that highlight the church’s 162-year history, making it the oldest congregation in the city.
Wills said she began the arduous task of cleaning the window, finding online that mild horse shampoo worked best for such a project. She said she went to the Topeka Orscheln store and found just what she needed for the project.
Other church members joined in the effort, which included building a case to house the window and designing LED lighting to illuminate it, as it is hanging on a wall and has no natural light behind it.
The stained-glass window also has an inscription at the bottom in honor of Myra Howard, a woman who was known to members of the Harder family.
Karen Robertson, chairwoman of the First Methodist memorial committee, said Sunday afternoon’s dedication ceremony will be an opportunity for former members of East Topeka United Methodist Church to come together and view the restored window.
“We want as many people to know about this as possible,” Robertson said, “and we’re hoping that people from the East Topeka church will come and take part.”
Contact Phil Anderson at (785) 295-1195 or follow live reports @Philreports on Twitter. Like him on Facebook at facebook.com/philreports.tcj/.