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Friday, September 4, 2020

Memories Of Sixty Years In Butler: Churches and Preachers

ON THE SQUARE

Memories Of Sixty Years In Butler

by James Ring

 

CHURCHES AND PREACHERS

            

Butler has always had a truly great assortment of religious groups, and there was always room for one more, it seems. When I showed up around 1960, I soon became acquainted with people of faith from all the local persuasions. I had already been pretty thoroughly indoctrinated with ecumenism, growing up in family populated with a variety of stripes and scriptures. Arguing religion and politics was normal, but never to the point of division.

 

From its early days, Butler’s Square was surrounded by churches within easy walking distance. Some, like the Methodists and Catholics, were served by clergy assigned to the task by organizational hierarchy, while others, like the Baptist, Christian and Church of Christ, “called” their preacher with their own governing board. In any case, these church leaders came and went regularly, new ones taking the place of those “called elsewhere.” I tried to make the acquaintance of them all, but time has erased most names.

 

Despite having several Jewish families residing in Butler, a local synagogue was never established with its own Rabbi, the Butler Jews preferring to attend Temple B’nai Jehudah in Kansas City. Martin Levy’s family cared for a historic Torah scroll brought from Germany before the rise of Hitler. The area’s Christian Science followers went to Clinton’s church, and the Seventh Day Adventists worshiped in Nevada. Latter Day Saints devotees went into Kansas City or Clinton for services, there was an active RLDS (Reorganized LDS) congregation here, now renamed the Community we of Christ. 

 

In 1960, the St. Patrick’s Catholic church and rectory was at High and Ohio streets, a too-small brick building just north of the Grade school that was eventually replaced in 1962 by the current building on Nursery street. The oldest Butler church is probably the Presbyterian building on Pine street, built in 1884, just west of the old High school. The Mt. Zion Methodist church building at 504 East Pine is probably next in age, constructed in 1897. The original First Baptist church was located on the site of the Post Office, before being relocated in 1915 to Pine and Delaware, across from the First Christian church. Immanuel Baptist was established just off west 52 at Prospect Street in 1959, just before I came to town.

 

Over the years, we saw the Butler Assembly of God and Church of the Nazarene congregations established, along with the Calvary Baptist, Fulton St. Church of Christ and Berean Baptist houses of worship. 

 

Ministers, as we said, came and went, some staying longer than others. Rev. Orville Woolery was at First Baptist when I came, and Rev. Roy Blalock moved into town shortly after, over at First Christian. Word had it that Bro. Blalock went into Levy’s store on his first week here and Uncle Paul Levy told him that, as a minister, he could purchase anything at an ecclesiastical discount, upon which he responded “No, I’m nobody special just because I work for the Lord; I pay whatever anyone else pays.”

 

In the 1990s, the Clyde Dupin Crusade, billed as the “Billy Graham of small towns” organized a week-long community-wide revival, centered on bringing more people into the pews and uniting as many of the local churches as possible in a common effort. With preaching by Bro. Dupin every night, the Assembly of God sanctuary was filled to capacity and a lot of souls were drawn to salvation. We have to believe that some of the good done in that week is still working here today.

 

A community needs spiritual guidance, in addition to stores, schools and streetlights. If our churches are allowed to decay and fall away, the foundation of the our nation is sure to crumble as well. Know God, or No God—that’s our choice.