Introducing Proverbs 31 | Women of Wamego

By Emilie Fink
It’s been on my heart to find not only the time but also a tribe to explore my faith with women who are in a similar life stage. Balancing our work, homes and families  has us pouring ourselves out; my hope is this time together fills us back up.
To kick us off, I’d like to follow the Proverbs 31 Ministries online study group and spend some time together in November and December exploring Max Lucado’s “Because of Bethlehem.” (Find the book on Amazon)

If you’re interested, or think you might be in the future, please join our Facebook group and invite anyone you’d like to come along! The first group meeting will be on November 10 at the First Presbyterian Church. Future dates and locations TBD.
Because of Bethlehem
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By Sarah Hancock

This is a photo of First Presbyterian Church in my hometown of Hoxie, Kansas.


This is the church I grew up attending. It looks like the church in Wamego because it was built by the same builder around the same time. What a coincidence, huh?!

I attended Sunday School and Vacation Bible School here as a child. I have fond memories of Kool-Aid and cookies and crafts in the basement, and of the kind women who taught us. A very specific memory that I have is of a youth group activity around Christmastime when I was in 7th or 8th grade. After a spaghetti dinner, a gift exchange, and a brief lesson with Pastor Don Hammerli, a bunch of us were playing an exhilarating game of tag in the darkened church. I ran around a corner and smacked into a classmate. We knocked our foreheads together, and I fell backward onto the hard tile floor and hit the back of my head, too. I sustained a concussion, and I still remember another member of the youth group asking me how to find the area of a trapezoid to see if I could remember what we had been learning in Mr. Mercer’s math class. I could recite the formula (base plus base times height divided by two!), but I didn’t recognize the white elephant gift that I had been given just a few minutes earlier. (It was a giant pine cone.) My recollection is that running in the church was discouraged after that incident.

I sang in many Christmas programs in this church, and I served as a pianist in the monthly rotation. I had mentors and friends here, and many church potlucks and Sundays sitting in the pews with my family. My dad always enjoyed holding the hymnal and moving it around slightly while we were singing just to make me laugh. As I grew older, I helped my mom in the church kitchen. People in the congregation took an interest in my activities as I progressed through school and college. I didn’t recognize it at the time, but I had a wonderful community around me.

Fast forward quite a few years to 2004, when Dave and I moved with our boys from San Mateo, California, to a house we built on the tallgrass prairie nine miles north of Wamego. An acquaintance of my dad’s, Mr. Charlie White, had encouraged us to look at the area around Wamego. That was a good recommendation. After we arrived, we wanted to join a church. We had never found quite the right church home in the Bay Area. When I saw Wamego First Presbyterian Church and it looked exactly like the church I had attended as a child and a young woman, I knew that was the first place we would try.

As it turned out, we never tried another church. As soon as we walked in, we were met with welcoming kindness and curiosity. We found neighbors with mutual friends, and we found the kind of multi-generational congregation that would surround our growing family with love and support. As we grew to know others, we found fast friends with whom we could share the comedies and trials of family life. I accidentally disclosed that I could play the piano, so I became a substitute accompanist, then substitute pianist, then choir director. (To this day, I still don’t REALLY know how to direct a choir, but I give it my best shot, and luckily, the people who sing really don’t need much help!)

My boys learned the things we wanted them to learn about God’s love, and service, and the transformational power of Jesus’ words and deeds. They sang songs and went to classes and joined service projects. They played pickleball at picnics and hiked hills at church campouts; one time, Evan even hiked a hill with a hairline fracture in an ankle, but that’s another story. Our sons learned how to be in community with others, and how to serve others.

Dave and I have done many jobs in this church. We have also grown. The fact that the building is the same as the one in Hoxie is just a coincidence, but it’s also a metaphor for the foundation of faith in my life and the role of community in that faith. When I think of community and love and service, it’s the image of a church building that pops into my mind, and then the faces and the services and the meals and the discussion and inquiry follow. Aside from my family, I can count no truer blessing, and I am so grateful to God and the people of both of “my” churches for it.

Thank you for pausing to celebrate the 150th birthday of Wamego First Presbyterian Church, and thank you for blessing my family with your love and friendship.


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All grown up!

Our upcoming 150th celebration has members looking through their photos. Jennifer Brunkow shared two gems: the 2012 confirmation class and a group that attended a youth mission trip to Goodland Academy in Oklahoma City. Some stories from that trip included a vehicle breakdown and some extreme brush clearing operations — plus learning valuable lessons about serving when called.

Thank you to Jennifer for sharing these memories! Now these “youth” are all grown up!


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You had me at 125

By Susan Symons

You had me at 125.

The move to Wamego, Kansas, was exciting, but then also a bit eerie, for me.  I found it curious because following my college graduation and subsequent moves to a new town in Ohio or Texas, I lived directly across the alley or across the street from the Presbyterian church.  (I was baptized and raised Presbyterian.) And now, upon our family’s 1994 arrival in Wamego, we moved next door to the First Presbyterian Church of Wamego, and INTO the manse!

Our family’s first Sunday church service was the 125th celebration. The service was lovely and effervesced joy, Christian love and fellowship. Memories shared during the service by current and former members revealed powerful and deep roots of faith, family, and community. This was new to me, as I had grown up in a military town where none of my friends had local relatives.

And the music! When the wave of former choir members flooded forward and then sang together … Oh, my! Angels I heard on high!

The harmony was unforgettable, and I knew then, that … well, you had me at 125!

Susan and Stan Symons are pictured here with Izzy, their Silky rescue, on a recent trip to Sioux Falls, South Dakota. 

Susan Stan Izzy

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Breaking the rules of Bible study

Wamego First Presbyterian Church values intellectual inquiry. Don’t believe it? Read this post by David Hancock, leader of a Sunday morning Bible study, then join us as we celebrate 150 years of learning more about the Bible.

Bible study 

When I started the current version of the church’s adult Bible class, I was unsure of how it would be received.  There are time-tested rules for how to conduct a Bible class, and I broke every one of them.  Adult Christian classes are “supposed” to be taught at an eighth grade level, focus on how participants feel about selected Bible passages, and, most importantly, reinforce what people already believe.  I didn’t set out to do any of that.  I just wanted to teach what the words on the page actually say, bringing in history, cultural context, original languages, translation choices, theology and later church traditions, a love and respect for Judaism, and whatever else was at hand to get a better sense of what the authors of the Gospels and Epistles wrote and why they wrote it.  Most importantly, I brought a willingness to admit that oftentimes we simply do not know the “answer” to a passage.  We are called, however, to search.  Thus I faced a question:  how would an adult Bible class that refused to treat adults like children be received?

I got my answer one Sunday from someone I dearly loved, Marie Carrel.  She had a habit of saving very little in class, save for the very end, when she would offer some pearls of wisdom from a long, Christian life.  Then one particular Sunday something was different.  She sat quietly, as usual, during the class.  We were wrestling with a particularly difficult section of, I believe, the Gospel According to Mark, one that is rarely or never the text for a sermon.  Then, at the end, she looked up and said something to effect of:  “I have been in this church for many, many years.  I have listened to sermons, and I have taught Sunday school.”  Oh no, what had I done wrong?  I was convinced that she was about to lower the boom on me and my descendants unto the seventh generation.  Instead she continued,  with a voice of pure sincerity, “and what I want to know is, why hasn’t anyone taught me these things before?”  Wow.  I had just received the most wonderful benediction a teacher could ever receive.  Thinking about the saint who bestowed that blessing on me is a big part of what motivates me to spend part of every week preparing for the class of ahead.

So, if any adult reading this blog is in the mood to be treated like an adult, come to the adult class. We’d love to have you. We are studying the Gospel According to Matthew, at Chapter 21. We meet at 9:00 a.m. most every Sunday in the Fellowship Hall.

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What Wamego First Presbyterian Church means to the Crillys

Rosemary and Gordon Crilly

We joined the church in 1969, and soon we had lifetime friends. The church first brings me closer to God and his teachings.

A few of the main programs I served on were Session, teaching Sunday School and Bible school. I helped with funeral dinners and others, and I loved being in the kitchen with friends. I worked with Community Health Ministry and other community projects. Gordon and I hosted numerous picnics, and Gordon also served on Session.

The things I was NEVER asked to do were SING or PREACH!

The Crillys’ lives are better because of the First Presbyterian Church in Wamego. We are so blessed by the church family!

Terri Crilly Hollenbeck

WPC was a fixture of my childhood and is some of my earliest memories of leadership opportunities. Then came our marriage, and through the years, whether we lived near or far, the church was there. It was also the baptismal place of our four children. We met many dear, dear people!

Dan Crilly

If I had to describe our church with a single phrase, it would be “the kindest people in town.” I want to name names, but then this would be ten pages long! After much traveling about, I came home to church. I was nervous at first, but then it seemed as though everyone stopped by to welcome me back. I will never forget that day: I was back home!

Diana Crilly Frasika

My foundation and that of my family has been formed in large part from being part of this church family for over 50 years. It was here that I first loved Jesus because I first loved Rev. Tom Blaney! This is where I formed lifelong friendships with Kastners, Carnahans, Mortons, and many others and found mentors like Linda Dehoff in Sunday School and junior choir, where I was safe to ask questions about God, to share in life’s joys, and be help up in time of sorry. It is a place of love and fond memories for me (other than that year I was cast as the centurion in the Christmas cantata but really wanted to be Mary!), and it is my prayer that it will continue to be so for others in their quest for and walk with Christ in the next 150 years. Thank you, First Presbyterian Church of Wamego!


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Joyful noise: A children’s choir memory

Brenda Merryman Belief shared the following memory:

One year when I was in elementary school, there was a children’s choir. The children’s choir was supposed to sing for a celebration at the church; I believe it was the 100th anniversary.

At that time, a flu epidemic was going through Wamego. Sunday morning came, and my sister Bonny and I were the only ones present to sing. Because there were only two of us, Reverend Frank Funk had us stand on chairs from the Kindergarten Sunday school room at the pulpit so we could use the microphone. As we got up, a leg fell out of the chair, and Reverend Funk had to put it back before we could sing. But we did sing, and our mom, Karla Merryman, sat in the back with proud tears in her eyes!



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