The First Baptist Church has closed its doors as a house of worship and has become a daycare center for Pratt.
Editors note: Historical information on the church came from a church history prepared for the 125th anniversary of the church and provided by member Marvin Alley.
It was a poignant farewell as church members gathered one last time at the First Baptist Church last Sunday in Pratt. After serving the congregation since 1887, the First Baptist Church closed its doors as a house of worship on Oct. 28, 2018.
Rev. Steven DeBerry, who has served as pastor for the last four years, said it was like a graveside service. Everyone in attendance shared their feelings about closing the church and how much the church meant to them.
“It was very emotional. There were lots of tears, lots of laughter, lots of love,” DeBerry said.
The attendance at that last service was small, just 15, and that has been typical of the attendance for several years.
With the majority of the remaining congregation over 70 years of age, the attendance would average 12 every Sunday. On bad weather days, it would be from four to six, DeBerry said.
The church body had been thinking about closing the church for quite a while. With a small congregation and very limited funds, keeping the church open was becoming more and more difficult.
“It was getting worse. Near the end, it was more a financial decision than anything,” DeBerry said. “We just got to the end of a cycle. The church had reached the end of its life span.”
As First Baptist congregation members move to other places of worship, DeBerry said he was concerned about his parishioners and how they would get along in a new church family. Though he lives in Wichita, he said they are still in contact and he is anxious to find out what they are going to do.
Prior to DeBerry, Rev. Stan Hendershot was pastor for eight years.
But that is not the end of the church building story. Some time ago, the church was approached about turning the facility into a much needed day care center for Pratt. It is very hard to find day care in Pratt and it the church had much of the requirements for a day care already in place. About a month ago, Loving Hands Children’s Center took possession of the building after the church sold it to them for $1, DeBerry said.
While it is not a church building anymore, Loving Hands Children’s Center is now making good use of the building and helping children become faith based citizens in the community, DeBerry said.
A new door has just been installed for the day care in the exterior wall and a new sidewalk from the door to the street has been added.
According to historical records, the current church was built in 1930 for $60,000 with the classroom wing added in 1969 for $15,000. There are no records showing if the first church building was built or purchased but there are references to a Chapel that stood on the west end of the present lot.
The first recorded church building was dedicated on Aug. 27, 1905 with Rev. E.B. Meredith preaching the dedication ceremony. The building cost $4,105.06.