Pringle church celebrates 100th

Ron Burtz
According to the calendar, the Pringle United Methodist Church at the corner of Antelope and Buffalo streets should be observing its 121st anniversary this year. But in a small church in a small community, things often don’t happen exactly  according to the calendar, so over the weekend the congregation celebrated the church’s centennial with a special worship service and open house. Along with the anniversary, the church is also celebrating a season of new growth in recent days. 
A written history records that “the early settlers of the community started the first church in Pringle with the help of each and every one.” 
The foundation of the one-room structure was laid in 1897 with Henery and Jim Bowman doing most of the carpenter work. The history also notes “at Christmas time a program with a tree was held at the church, although it was only partially completed.” 
The building was completed and ready for full occupancy in early 1898.
One of the movers behind the belated centennial celebration is lay leader Bev Morgan who has been a member of the congregation since joining as a newlywed 60 years ago. Morgan conveniently lives right next door to the church building and has seen many changes through those six decades. 
Initially heated by a wood stove, the church later installed a fuel oil heater and finally a propane furnace. Though the years, a belfry was built and a vestibule was added to what was formerly the front entrance on the north side of the building. Pews and stained glass windows were also added and the upright piano which is still in use came in 1940. There’s also an old — nobody knows just how old — pump organ which is still playable. 
In response to a growth surge around 1980, a new addition was added to the south in 1982 which included a small kitchen and fellowship hall, an entryway and indoor restrooms. 
“Before that, we had a path,” explains Morgan. 
Following that growth spurt in the ’80s, Morgan says the church entered a period of decline in the early ’90s.
“At one time we had trouble getting 18 in worship,” explains Morgan.
In recent years, however, Morgan and fellow church member Ned Westfall, who came during that 1980s period of growth, say attendance has been increasing again. Two families with children have begun attending and have decided to join the church and attendance now averages 35-40 on a Sunday morning. 
Morgan and Westphal give much of the credit for that growth to current pastor Peary Wilson, a Custer resident and former Methodist district superintendent who has been leading the church the past several years.
“He’s the force behind the increase,” affirmed Westphal. 
Sunday’s centennial celebration featured a recitation of the church’s history by Morgan and a recital by Westphal on the pump organ. Following the service, a reception was held with a pot­luck and a cake featuring a picture of the church building. 
With what Morgan calls a “very active women’s group,” which has served funeral dinners for folks in the community from various denominations, and new families coming in, it appears Pringle United Methodist Church is well on its way into a second 100 years of service to the community. 

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