On June 28, 2001, the journey began from Tulare across the prairie 60 miles to Prairie Retreat, and stopped at the township road on the edge of the Retreat property after dark. June 29th the house movers finished the journey by going through the soybean field and across the meadow pulled by a 4 wheel drive assist tractor. This was done to save the trees around the Retreat property. Two more days of work were needed to bring the church to the foundation with touchdown at noon on July 3rd, 2001.
The spirit of the church remains intact and soars across the prairie through its new windows. The mellow wooden floor that was hidden under the altar area, once tread upon by a multitude of worshippers, now provides a solid base for the added kitchen and bathrooms. The old sanctuary walls still sing in the new meeting room and the original entryway with its lovely stained glass window has become a small chapel. The embossed metal, obviously left over from the once tinned walls and found resting in the bell tower, now is framed on a wall of the meeting room. The old balcony and the new balcony created by the kitchen and bathrooms have become loft sleeping and study areas.
The Old Church in its new setting is nestled in tall trees and surrounded by flowerbeds, a meadow and orchard. The sounds of the ducks, chickens, geese and wild birds have formed the new "choir" for the Old Church. The building is now surrounded by a large deck and ramp making it accessible to all.
The Prairie Retreat Story
As a 10 year old girl living on the family farm, Marjie would sit in the large doorway to the haymow of the barn and dream about making it into her home. Her dream came true 30 years later when she and her husband, Ray, moved back to the farm and with the help of their children, began remodeling the haymow into their home.
The idea for the retreat came in 1992, an inspiration to Marjie that was slowed by the start-up costs of a new business. As a pastor in the Union Congregational Church in Bryant, she shared her dream with her parish one Sunday. They encouraged her to pursue the dream and loaned her the money to begin.
In the summer of 1993, with the church as the sponsoring agent, Ray and Marjie began "Prairie Retreat". The non-profit organization is run through the church as an extended ministry.
When help is needed for extra food, quilts, or work on the farm, Marjie says her parish is quick to respond. "A pastor couldn't find more wonderful people." In turn, the money earned at Prairie Retreat helps keep the church going.
The ground floor of the barn hosts the bunkhouse, the first venture of the retreat. It holds six beds, topped with handmade quilts, sewn and tied by the ladies at the church. A dining table that has a view across the Canada goose pen, the duck pond and the orchard, and a handicapped accessible bathroom complete the space. The room was constructed from lumber retrieved as the Brewtons tore down a house and 3 barns.
After Marjie's mother, Esther Sprang, passed away, they fulfilled her wish of using her home as a retreat as well. In 1995, the Prairie House was also opened to guests. With eight beds, it can sleep up to 10 people.
Prairie House, which is the original farmstead home, has a living room which is perfect for meetings; it has a bathroom and four bedrooms, easily sleeping eight to ten persons.
The Prairie House has a fully equipped kitchen if you choose to do your own cooking.
Any time of the year, Prairie Retreat allows you to enjoy the peaceful, natural surroundings of the prairie and a chance to rest and find spiritual renewal. The freshness of spring, the busyness of summer, the harvest in fall, and the serenity of winter are all evident at Prairie Retreat, and guests can experience God's gift of nature each season at the Prairie Retreat.
"There is an atmosphere here that is peaceful," says Marjie. "It affects the people who come here."
We continue to believe that God has great plans for this building and know that with time and effort, there will be more revealed to us.
"If you would like to contribute in any way with work days or financial assistance, we would welcome you to join us in this exciting adventure of faith."