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Back at home in Harper

Congregation returns with new vision, hope for historic church

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ABOVE: A group of congregation members from the Harper Community Church, formerly the Harper United Methodist Church, stand Saturday outside the building they recently bought back from the United Methodist Conference after it revoked the church’s UMC status earlier this year. They are, from left, front row, Nick and Blake Rose; back row, Mikayla Rose, Ed Justice, Melissa Rose, Deb Booher and Pastor Ed Spragen. FRONT PAGE PHOTO: Nick Rose, left, and twin brother Blake point out various hidden animals and signatures of the church youth who spent all winter painting this mural with the help of local artist Pat Brown. The conference canceled the unveiling of the mural just days before the sudden announcement of the revocation. After banding together under the new community church moniker, the congregation has managed to buy back the building and kept a church in the small hamlet that has enjoyed its presence for 158 years. (EXAMINER PHOTOS | REUBEN MEES)

As recently as a little more than six months ago, everything seemed to be going smoothly for members of the Harper United Methodist Church.

The congregation was in the midst of its Eastertide observances; volunteers had completed another successful Winter Warm-up to keep less fortunate families warm through the winter; and the youths had just finished painting a mural they were excited to show off to the public.

But it all came to a screeching halt when the United Methodist Church Conference — seemingly out-of-the-blue — announced it was removing the UMC affiliation from the church.

The national organization took possession of the building, locked it up, sealed away the mural depicting numerous biblical stories, and closed what had become the all-purpose community center for the small unincorporated hamlet south of Rushsylvania.

“It was hard to drive by here and see the grass overgrown and the power was off; I’m glad I was gone most of the summer,” congregation member Deb Booher said.

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