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Springfield church preserves Oakland Presbyterian history

This would have marked 100th year for now-closed church.

When Oakland Presbyterian Church in Springfield closed its doors in 2012, it left in its wake many broken-hearted members and memories of a church with a 98-year history.

Kathleen Lauri-Lewis could identify with that. So she and her current church, Covenant Presbyterian Church, 201 N. Limestone St., decided to do something about that. On Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Monday, Jan. 20, Covenant will host an open house from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. for former Oakland members and those who are otherwise a part of Oakland history.

The focus: memories from members.

“I myself was a member of a church that closed (St. Paul Evangelical Lutheran Church in Springfield), and my husband (Garth) and I were the ones who captured all the memories there in a book,” said Lauri-Lewis, who is spearheading the collection of information for the Oakland book. “We had to do a second printing so everybody could get copies.”

The Oakland book, which will be funded by Covenant, will be available to purchase through Amazon once it is completed.

Lauri-Lewis shared that having a home church close is an emotional roller coaster, one that included a grieving process.

“It helps to have something to look back on and remember the good things, to capture all that happened there and how important it was to the community,” she said

Covenant pastor Rev. Raymond Stewart not only saw the effort as an act of service to former Oakland members, many of whom now attend Covenant, but also an effort to preserve a part of Springfield’s history.

“Covenant is the result of the joining together of the First Presbyterian, which dated back to 1815, and Second Presbyterian,” said Stewart. “They were only a few blocks apart. So in 1919, they decided to get together and form Covenant.

“So as Oakland closed, our concern was that we were be able to pull together the history, so those stories and pictures and the wonderful ministry that Oakland was would not be lost.”

Lauri-Lewis quickly became aware of the opportunity for a book shortly after Oakland’s closing.

“When the Oakland people started coming to Covenant, I spent a lot of time seeing that their needs were met,” said Lauri-Lewis. “One of the people was collecting a bunch of the stuff, and she started bringing it to me to scan.”

Once she saw what was already in hand, she started moving toward making the book a reality. Thus the open house.

“I’m hoping to get a lot of pictures identified,” she said. “I’m hoping to get a lot of stories, and hopefully we can include biographies of some of the members.”

Oakland was started as a Sunday school between 1874 and 1876, and it officially became a church in 1914, so the church’s 100th anniversary would have been this year.

“That’s part of the reason for trying to get the book done in 2014,” said Lauri-Lewis. “I think the project is likely going to be successful as it is, because I have a lot of stuff already. The gathering would help to enrich the book.”

A copy of book will be given to Clark County Public Library and Clark County Historical Society for preservation purposes.

“We realize that one of our responsibilities as churches working together is to preserve a part of Springfield’s history,” Stewart said. “It’s important for older people, and also for younger people, to understand the shoulders that we stand on.”

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