Last Saturday the Mullinville United Methodist Church held its 26th Annual God’s Acre Auction and Soup Supper. Locals gobbled up homemade chicken noodle soup, munched fistfuls of crackers and bid on locally donated items to raise funds for the church.


Last Saturday the Mullinville United Methodist Church held its 26th Annual God’s Acre Auction and Soup Supper. Locals gobbled up homemade chicken noodle soup, munched fistfuls of crackers and bid on locally donated items to raise funds for the church.

A number of people left the all-day affair with armfuls of homemade cakes, chocolates, stuffed teddy bears and gifts. But ask any member of the congregation and you’ll find that the God’s Acre means more to them than any slice pie, cup of iced tea or quilt. It’s a tradition that brought a community together, built a church and inspired a generation of local farmers.

In 1951, following a fire in the basement of the United Brethren Church that had served Mullinville since 1912, the congregation of the church, led by the Homebuilders Class and Rev. C.L. Heatherington, created God’s Acre.

The idea came to a group of 50 younger members of the church during an all-day meeting. The God’s Acre asked area farmers to pledge a portion of their annual crop to help build a new church. In their first year, the church received 510 acres of wheat and two acres of milo. Some farmers even donated livestock. In the first year of God’s Acre, the church raised $30,722 from the sale of the donated harvest, which would be approximately $250,000 in today’s money.

“Different people babysat, they held sales and they did what they could,” said Doris Headrick of Mullinville. “One lady had a favorite bible verse and she would give a dollar for every person who would memorize that bible verse.”

In 1953 God’s Acre raised 133,737 bushels of wheat and 40 bushels of milo, but a drought in 1953 caused donations to fall and the church raised only $2,997. The harvest was estimated at only 25 percent of what it had been the previous year, nonetheless construction on the church began in April and was completed in October of that year.

The harvest returned in 1954 and 227 acres of wheat were donated to God’s Acre, exceeding the funds needed to pay for the new church.

“Some of the farmers said that the acres they were going to donate to the church always grew more wheat than the rest,” said Headrick.

The mortgage was paid in full and ceremonially burned in September of that year.

Newspapers and magazines took notice of God’s Acre, Kan. Newspapers like the Pratt Tribune, the Topeka, the Wichita Eagle, the Hutchinson Herald and national magazines like Quick: the Picture Magazine  published articles on their success.

In 1985 God’s Acre became much like it is today with a soup supper, an auction and an abundance of community warmth. Families sat at tables, chatting and laughing, only looking up when an item of interest was in-line for the auction block. No one thought twice about a second or third trip to the gigantic “pie table” for a wedge of lemon meringue, cinnamon apple or pecan.

“Most of the money goes back into the operating budget. It helps to pay the bills and helps to keep the lights on,” said Mullinville United Methodist Pastor Scott Rose. “It goes into the ministry as well. When we do our budget it will go into our education fund, Sunday school, materials, things like that.”

On Saturday the auction seemed like a delightful twist on tithing with a number of auction items selling for far beyond their stated value. One winner paid $40 for a $25 gift certificate and delicious handmade noodles (another God’s Acre tradition) were selling for $30 and higher per bag.

A stunning hand sewn queen-sized quilt, donated by Jill Copeland, set off a flurry of bidding, selling for $2,000 to an unlikely winner, her mother, Mullinville local Jackie Sherer. “I didn’t tell her I was going to bid,” said Sherer. “I had to have it.”

“This church has been here for over one hundred years now,” said Rose. “It’s a central part of the community. The church has always been there for people especially when they are going through hard times. I think people come out and it’s just their way of giving back to the church. To say ‘thank you.’ Of course we thank them for participating. It’s something everybody looks forward to every year.”

Pastor Rose reported on Monday morning that this year’s God’s Acre auction raised $10,000 for the church. “We would like to thank the community and all those who participated and helped out to make this auction successful,” said Rose via e-mail. “Truly it was the Lord's faithfulness to His Church and the faith response of His people to trust Him with the outcome that made it happen.”

editor@kiowacountysignal.com

 

Below is the 1954 article published by Coronet Magazine about the God's Acre. All Right Reserved.

Coronet Magazine: They Call It "God's Acres"

by Marietta Weaver

June 1954, Coronet Magazine

A group of Kansans have found the secret of building a new community church. It was wheat harvest time in Kiowa County, Kansas, and the hot sun shone on thousands of acres of waving yellow grain. Fleets of combines in every direction were cutting in rhythmical formation, golden streams of plump kernels pouring from their spouts into waiting trucks.

In Mullinville, lines of trucks extended for blocks, awaiting their turn to pull over the scales for weighing, then on into the Equity Exchange grain elevator to be dumped. Written large in chalk on the side of every truck was the name of the grower whose wheat was being sold - Hammer, D. Rader, Olson, Fralick & Son, R. Walters & Friends University, Sherer Bros.

Then, as the weighmaster again set the balances, a load came onto the platform labeled "God's Acres." Without showing surprise, the Equity Exchange manager, W. H. Ruth, filled out the scale ticket accordingly. Presently a truck drove up with the scrawling inscription "God's Wheat" on the side.

"Is this some of the God's Acre wheat?" Ruth asked. "I guess so," replied the driver. "That's what the boss said, but I couldn't remember how to spell 'acre' so I just wrote 'God's Wheat' and figured you would know what it meant. This is the first wheat I ever hauled for God! You know, it gave me a kind of funny feeling. I wonder what the folks back home will say?"

A wonderful new spirit of community friendship pervaded Mullinville and the farming and ranch land surrounding it, and no doubt the "folks back home" in a dozen states were soon hearing about the cutting of God's wheat. For several years the Evangelical United Brethren Church in small town of about 400 needed a new house of worship badly. Just after the wheat sowing September, 1951, a drive was begun to solicit funds and pledges toward the construction of a new church. but the usual answer was: "I'd be glad to help if I were sure we'd have a crop. No, I guess I'd better wait until I see how my crop come out next year."

The financing program was at a standstill until the Homebuilders Sunday School class of young adults surveyed the situation and decided to adopt the "God's Acre Plan," whereby anyone could dedicate part of his future income to be toward the building fund for new church.

Spearheaded by their chairman. Perry Miller, and the minister, Clarence L. Heatherington, they sent letters explaining the privilege sharing the fruits of labor with the church and suggesting ways which old and young, farmers and townsmen, and entire families might participate.

A kick-off breakfast in the church basement the morning of the God's Acre drive sped the ambitious young people on their way with pledge blanks for enlisting aid in building the new church. Each individual filled out his own blank and during the week of the breakfast, 108 families representing some 225 people had made commitments and entered wholeheartedly into one of the most rewarding projects of their church history.

Forty farmers dedicated from two to 120 acres of wheat, a total of 537 acres. Others gave calves or their equivalent in cash - 25 head in all - for which a dozen ranchmen donated free pasturage. Boys and girls enthusiastically pledged themselves to raise pigs, chickens, sheep and gardens. One girl donated her wages for every third babysitting job.

Many salaried people contributed certain days' pay or their overtime, and one gave what he earned by his sideline of radio servicing. A grocer promised his advertising allowance from a national firm, and a part-time floral agency volunteered to turn over the commission received on orders for flowers.

The character building aspects of the God's Acre plan were soon in evidence. To one little fellow eager to help, his aunt suggested that he sell some of the nice potatoes she had grown. "Oh, that would be cheating," he exclaimed. "Because God would know that I didn't raise them." When young Michael Durkee's sow farrowed during a winter storm, they were only able to save three of the baby pigs. But to Michael's surprise and delight, the dedicated pig outgrew the other two, bringing $58 when it weighted 260 pounds.

"I Wonder what I can do?" thought an 87 year old grandmother. "I'd like to give more than just cash. I once learned a poem which I have used for my morning prayer for over 50 years. I wish everyone would learn it." So she offered to give a dollar to the church fund and a dollar to each individual who would memorize the poem and agree to repeat it frequently. The grew by $50 through and her pledge, and her prayer inspired many.

One Saturday each month during the winter, the aroma' of hot coffee issued from the Coop Appliance store where the women of the community conducted a homemade food and craft-work sale. The treasury was increased several hundred dollars by women with little cash income of their own, yet who wanted the satisfaction of sharing in the enterprise. Many who stopped to buy something or to drink became interested. On the next sale day they brought something to donate, and new friendships were made and new people started attending church.

Perhaps one of the finest results of the plan was the way the men came to regard their project. One farmer would meet another with the remark, "It rained over our way last night, but God's Acres got a lot more than ours here at the house."       At the close of harvest, the 537 dedicated acres were found to have yielded 13,733 bushels of grain, which was sold for $2.11 a bushel. Later, the sale of cattle, hogs, corn and other products brought the total receipts from the plan to $30,000.

A great "Praise giving" dinner held on the church lawn was climaxed by the Rudd and Alford families making a gift of deeds to the ground for the new building. Mullinville's experience in practicing brotherhood has been richly rewarding. It opened a door permitting all to have the satisfaction of sharing in sacrificial work for a common purpose and a worthy objective.

Over the entrance to an old French cathedral is this motto, "He who bringeth no gift to the altar beareth no blessing away." The people around Mullinville feel that they have been doubly blessed, both by giving and by receiving.