Friday, February 5, 2016

In which we visit a church in a non-existent town

Sacred Heart of Mary Church in Windthorst, Kansas
Folks who've visited Europe often mention that they felt sad visiting the great cathedrals of England or France that are now merely tourist attractions more than places of worship. "Perhaps," they worry, "the Church in the United States will go the way of the churches in Europe."

site of Catholic school in Windthorst, Kansas
Of course, there are already many wonderful church buildings in the United States that have ceased to be centers of worship. During a visit to a bar in Dodge City we were told by a number of people that we needed to visit the Immaculate Heart of Mary Church in a place that was intended to be a town called Windthorst. 

Chapel in Windthorst Church
In 1876, a group of men planned what they hoped would become a thriving community, mapping out the location of the church, school and cemetary. When the railroad took a different route, the town didn't come to be.

view from the balcony of Sacred Heart of Mary Church
But the church was built. The first brick was laid in 1912, and the church was dedicated the following year. The building served the community on the outskirts of Dodge City for many years, but in 1997 the church was closed as an active parish.

Dean and stained glass windows at Windthorst Church
The building was purchased and is now maintained by Windthorst Heritage, a nonprofit historical preservation society. The doors are opened every morning and locked every evening, allowing people to appreciate the beauty of this place built for the glory of God.
nativity scene at Windthorst Church