Mike Isaacs, left, and Paula McCall provide the communion elements during the final services for the First Church of God.
Daily Leader photos/Rustin Watt
First Church of God in Liberal passes baton to Hispanic congregation
By EARL WATT • Daily Leader After 88 years of continual worship, the First Church of God in Liberal had its final services Sunday.
While more than 120 attended the final services, the church had seen its regular attendance drop to about 20 in recent years.
At the same time, a Hispanic congregation of the Church of God was planted in Liberal two years ago, and on the same day of the final services for the First Church, Iglesia de Dios was celebrating its second anniversary.
The obvious change in Liberal’s demographic make-up was evident. The Hispanic congregation has grown to nearly 100 in regular attendance, and that group will continue to utilize the facilities as the baton was passed to Pastor Rafael Bermuder to continue the work at the corner of Eighth and Pershing.
Many who attended the final services shared memories from the church, many were associated to family and youth.
Verda Ruth Swagerty, 79, shared that she first attended the church in
1929 at a camp meeting as an infant. Her parents and grandparents were charter members of the church.
“When I was 8, I had a heart murmur,” Swagerty said. “My family was told I wouldn’t live to be 10. The folks had pictures made when I was
9 because they didn’t think I would live. When I was 10, they had prayer for me at church, and I was healed. And then I couldn’t miss any more school.”
Joyce Harper said that she had played the piano many times over the years, and that when someone who could play better came along, she gladly stepped aside and let them have it.
Others shared about weddings, funerals and baptisms at the church.
Wade Odneal was the first pastor in 1922, and Larry McCall was the final full time pastor in 2007. Karen Isaacs filled the pulpit as a part-time pastor until the final service Sunday.
The Church of God is probably best known in the community for the annual camp meeting that takes place each July and draws Church of God attendees as well as others from Southwest Kansas and the Oklahoma panhandle.
That service will still take place at the First Church of God facilities this summer.
Over the years, the church expanded from a small wooden structure to a brick facility, a new sanctuary and a fellowship hall.
The property was officially deeded over to the Church of God in Kansas who will administrate the facilities for the Hispanic church.