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Farewell after 140 years

Farewell after 140 years

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February 18, 1880, thirteen men and women signed a petition seeking official recognition as the the First Presbyterian Church of Fredericktown. Fast forward more than 140 years to Sept. 20, 2020 and the congregation is now saying farewell and closing the doors.

"We could have continued on being a church for probably another five or six years, but we were just to the point where we were no longer being able to keep up with our expenses," Scott Mier said. "We were basically having to eat up our nest egg and that nest egg was put there to be used some time in the future, and we decided now is that time."

Mier said instead of continuing to burn up its nest egg the congregation decided to take the money and distribute it to the community.

"We have distributed over $100,000 of funds to charities and nonprofits," Mier said. "Around $80,000 of it went to 17 different nonprofits, a lot of them being right here in this community. They all received a check for over $5,000 a piece. There is a lot of them and they had no idea."

Some of the organizations that benefited from these funds are the Fredericktown School District Cat Pack Program, EMAA Emergency Fund, Salvation Army, Serenity Hospice, Presbyterian Manor, Sheets and Young, Fredericktown branch of the Ozark Regional Library, Historic Madison County, Sheltered Workshop, Presbyterian Children's Home and Services in Farmington, Snowdenville Cemetery, Mineral Area Council of the Arts, Madison County Senior Center, The Feminine Hygiene Products Project, United Organizations of Madison County and PAR-TEE fore Kids Program.

As if that was not already an amazing gift to so many great causes, the church will continue to give in one more way even after its closing. Once the manse and church building are sold 50% of the assets from the sale will be gifted to Madison County Food Pantry, Southeast Missouri Domestic Violence Council and new worshiping communities. 

"This church has been here for a long time and unfortunately no longer," Mier said. "Our congregation had dwindled down to probably only about ten or twelve, and I'm the youngest member. I'm 61, almost 62, and most of the members were 20 years my senior, so in their 80's and 90's."

Mier said, in the 1950s when the mines were going, the church had more than 100 members. He said when the economy changed and jobs moved, so did the children of the older members.

"Like my children were raised up in this church," Mier said. "I have a daughter in Denver and a son in Idaho. They moved someplace else where a job is."

Mier said the First Presbyterian Church of Fredericktown has been a cornerstone in his life. 

"We moved to Fredericktown in 1984, my daughter was two weeks old," Mier said. "We came to this church, actually we had been attending Presbyterian Church in Columbia, but we came into the community and we intentionally didn't go to the Presbyterian Church first."

Mier said his wife and him went around and visited other churches to try them out. He said they waited to visit the Presbyterian Church last.

"We came here and when we walked in, there was no leaving because my kids were raised in a congregation where they had 20 grandparents," Mier said. "They were the only children at that time. We slowly added a few other young families with a few other young children for a period of time, but like I said jobs changed and they moved away."

Rev. Janet Pillmen, who resided at the First Presbyterian Church of Fredericktown from 2001 to 2006, returned for the final service Sept. 20.

"She was probably the perfect person to do it because she was one of those ones that just has a very peaceful calming spirit," Mier said. "Her sermon basically was to look back, look at what you got, and imagine what you could have in the future. It kind of tied it all together."

Victoria Kemper is a reporter for the Democrat News. She can be reached at 573-783-3366 or at vkemper@democratnewsonline.com

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