EIGHINGER: Tiny Adams County church can no longer continue ice cream social

Posted: Jul. 16, 2014 9:26 am Updated: Oct. 8, 2014 10:15 am

Nothing lasts forever. Not even ice cream socials.

The St. Peter Lutheran Church, located about four miles from Ill. 104 and Five Points on the Kellerville blacktop, is commonly referred to as the "Lost Prairie Church."

For 76 years, the tiny, picturesque white church in the country was known for its summer ice cream social. However, what once was an Adams County tradition will not be held this year.

The Lost Prairie ice cream social normally would have been held Thursday night, but the church congregation decided a few months ago it could no longer carry on the tradition.

"We're small in number, and we're an older church," St. Peter member Elaine Simon said.

On most Sundays, about 18 to 20 people are in the pews at St. Peter listening to the Rev. Ronald Graham, 78, who retired a few years ago but continues to pastor the congregation he loves.

"It's a shock (that there will not be an ice cream social)," Graham said. "But it takes a lot of work and a lot of people, and we're running low on people."

Simon said the decision to not have the ice cream social was made by the congregation as a whole.

"We had been talking about it since last year," she said. "The congregation all agreed. We knew the time had come."

This little church in the country has a rich local history, if for no other reason than its striking beauty. When approaching it, you would swear you have seen it before on one of those old Currier and Ives prints. Yes, it's that beautiful.

Lost Prairie once was a community of which the church and nearby cemetery were part, sequestered in the southeastern portion of Columbus Township. St. Peter celebrated its 150th anniversary in July 2011. The church started when the Civil War started, and the building that now houses the congregation was built in 1868.

The ice cream social would attract crowds of between 500 and 600 each year.

"It's a big letdown not to have it, but it was something we had to do," Simon said.

Church members expressed their thanks to community members who have helped out with the ice cream social over the years. Many donated both time and materials to help keep the Lost Prairie ice cream social a reality.

Graham said many of those in the community who used to help also have aged along with the congregation, adding to the problem of putting on such an event. Many who used to help no longer could.

The cancellation of this year's ice cream social technically is a one-year action. Though the ice cream social has not been crossed off the church calendar forever, it realistically is unlikely to resurface again.

"It depends," Simon said. "We're not sure."

There was hesitancy in her voice. And very little optimism.

If we have seen the last of the Lost Prairie ice cream social, we need to keep its memories alive. It was a part of the fabric of our community.

Memories, unlike traditions -- or a scoop of cold, homemade vanilla ice cream on a hot July evening -- actually do last forever.


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