Three men raised a step ladder to lower the figure of Christ on the cross. A corner of Stephanie Pikell’s heart began to ache.
“I know I said I’ve had closure,” said Pikell who, on Tuesday, stood with some other members of Kansas City’s All Saints’ Episcopal Church as the crowned figure of Jesus in crucifixion was lowered from high above the altar. “But I don’t know if I want to see this.”
For Pikell, 46, the limestone, ranch-style church at 9201 Wornall Road had always been part of her life. She was baptized there, confirmed there, was married and had her own children baptized there, too.
On Saturday, the crucifix that’s long been part of her prayers and memories will, from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., be part of a massive church garage sale to include everything from its dishwasher and office furnishings to its Bibles, baptismal font, cherished “Narnia” stained glass windows, pipe organ and even the Italian pink marble altar.
“I sat right here and looked up to him (Jesus on the cross) when I was going through my divorce,” said Ann LaGrange, 56, patting the front-most of 26 full-size pews which also are for sale, along with 26 half pews.
If one wants the entire church and its 4.7 acres, that too is for sale. Asking price: about $1.3 million.
Clergy and the parishioners of the congregation, which opened in 1951, prefer to view their story as a positive one of adaptation and endurance in the face of possible extinction. Episcopal Church membership, like membership in most mainline Christian denominations, has been in steep decline for decades.
Nationally, Episcopal Church membership sank 20 percent from 2.3 million to fewer than 1.9 million between 2003 and 2013. Average Episcopal attendance on Sundays dropped 23 percent and 34 percent in Missouri and Kansas, respectively, during that period.
Whereas 15 years ago, All Saints’ might see a couple hundred people at its Sunday services, in recent years it was pulling in as few as 35, said the Rev. Evelyn Hornaday.
In 2013, the Diocese of West Missouri called on Hornaday to be an interim rector and to help remedy the membership declines at All Saints’ as well as at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, a nearby congregation located only three miles south down Wornall Road and a half a block east at 100 E. Red Bridge Road.
Membership at the quaint, 58-year-old stone St. Peter’s — built in the cruciform style of an English country parish — had also dwindled to about 250.
“St. Peter’s at one point in its history, probably 25 years ago, had close to 1,000,” Hornaday said. By the time she arrived, she said, Sunday attendance was about 80.
Instead of closing one or, perhaps, in time, both churches and seeing members wander off, the two congregations in 2013 made a decision.
“We decided to come together,” Hornaday said.
In January 2014, the two congregations began worshiping together at St. Peter’s on Red Bridge Road; one year later, in January 2015, they legally consolidated as St. Peter & All Saints’ Episcopal Church.
“I tell you,” said LaGrange, “the most special thing is that 80 or 90 percent of the church family moved at the same time. We decided we were going to make the new church ours also.”
But it also meant that, eventually, All Saints’ and its contents would have to go. No one denies the sadness.
“When people go to a church and create a community of people who worship together, who pray together, who work together, who have fun together, it is like a family,” Hornaday said. “When a church closes, the family is what hurts.”
Susan Lockhart, 54, is Ann LaGrange’s sister. Their father was a priest in the Episcopal Church. Lockhart expressed a sentiment shared by others.
“It’s not a building that makes a church,” she said, “it’s the people.”
A church is where some of life’s highest and lowest moments are not only recognized, but also held sacred.
“Births, deaths, marriages, confirmations, the whole liturgical life of a church,” Hornaday said.
Church walls house memories.
“I was married in this church — twice,” said LaGrange, who came to the church last week with her grandsons, Sam Thurman, 5, and Jayden Kelly, 6. In December 2013, just before services at All Saints’ ceased for good, the brothers became the last two children to be baptized there.
Some belongings from All Saints’ did make their way to the new combined church. A large bronze crucifix now hangs in the parlor of the combined church. One of All Saints’ three grandfather clocks chimes in the narthex, or lobby. A second one went to an Episcopal church in Carthage, Mo. The third is for sale.
Most important, All Saints’ columbarium, a wall of niches containing the cremated remains of 34 of All Saints’ parishioners, was fit into the south transept off the church’s nave. St. Peter’s columbarium sits in the north transept.
Hornaday said that no price list for All Saints’ religious items had been set for the sale, which will be at the church. She said that because the church is a non-profit, it is not exactly “selling” the items as much as it is accepting donations or “offerings.”
“I think that’s how it will work for everything except for what’s in the nave,” meaning the central sanctuary, Hornaday said.
Given that caveat, Hornaday said, a fair ballpark offering for a single pew might range anywhere from $25 for a half-sized pew to $50 or $100 for a full-sized pew.
Offering a couple dollars per Bible, she said, probably would be well-received.
The church also has a baby grand piano, which Hornaday hoped might bring somewhere between $3,000 and $5,000.
Bob Maynard, 61, a member of All Saints’ for 37 years, said that some items, such as the church’s hymnals and music collection, had already been donated to a different Episcopal church in south Kansas City.
Members ideally would love to see the church building bought by a different denomination and kept as a church.
Hornaday would like to see the same, if possible. But right now, selling is the matter at hand.
Whatever money is raised from the garage sale and the eventual sale of the building and property, Hornaday said, will go to the consolidated St Peter & All Saints’ Episcopal Church. She said the church knows that a commercial buyer may choose to purchase the property and tear down the building.
“It is very good land,” she said, “and it’s a prime location.”
In June 2013, the Congregation Beth Shalom sold its synagogue and acreage located across the street from All Saints’ at 9400 Wornall Road. The building was eventually razed to make room for construction of the headquarters of Burns & McDonnell, which worked with the congregation to help preserve important artifacts.
“We took everything with us,” said Elaine Levine, the executive director of Beth Shalom, whose main campus is in Overland Park. “They even gave us the cornerstone.”
LaGrange thought about the crucifix above the altar.
“I hope it goes somewhere where it can be just as loved by others as it was by us,” she said.
To reach Eric Adler, call 816-234-4431 or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org.