First Presbyterian Church of Dallas Center to offer tours of new fellowship hall Sept. 12

Carolyn Rogers, First Presbyterian Church of Dallas Center
Special to Dallas County News
First Presbyterian Church of Dallas Center was recently remodeled. The community is invited to tour the church’s new fellowship hall and remodeled building from 1 to 2 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 12.

Pastor Nicole Wegele and the congregation of First Presbyterian Church of Dallas Center, 1204 13th St., Dallas Center, will offer a tour of the church’s new fellowship hall and remodeled building from 1 to 2 p.m. Sept. 12.  

First Presbyterian Church was founded in 1869, the same year that the town of Dallas Center was organized. The current building is the church’s third. The original wooden structure, the first church to be built in Dallas Center, was located on the northeast corner of Walnut Street and Percival Avenue. It was replaced in 1914 by a larger brick building, erected on the same site.  

The current building, dedicated in 1998, is an accessible one-level structure on 10 acres. Its design incorporates the large bell and stained-glass windows that have been with the church since the early 1880s. 

The congregation voted to remodel and expand their building in 2017.  

“A new fellowship hall was selected as the most desirable next step,” Gary Wilson, chair of the Property Committee, said during the construction process. “The design of the new Fellowship Hall was going to consume our existing choir room and nursery, so we included extensive remodeling of our old kitchen and former classroom spaces to create a new nursery and more functional classrooms.” 

The interior of the new fellowship hall at First Presbyterian Church of Dallas Center.

Demolition and construction began in Spring 2019, and the project was mostly completed by June 2020.  

Former Property Committee member Jeani Shepherd was excited to see the fellowship hall come together, complete with a commercial kitchen, three spacious classrooms and a nursery closer to the sanctuary in addition to a new fire protection system and storage room.

“The new addition enables us to serve our youth in a more flexible environment,” Christian Education Committee co-chairs Kris Powell and Cindy Pion said. “And each educational space is now equipped with screens to allow educational instruction to take place through a variety of modalities, including the use of technology.”

Another use for the new fellowship hall will be the ability to host community fundraising events to support the church's work locally as well as in their sister parish in El Salvador.

“This new space opens up so many possibilities,” said Tina Greiman, co-chair of the church’s Mission Committee.

First Presbyterian Church of Dallas Center was recently remodeled.

The church called a new pastor, the Rev. Nicole Wegele, during the remodeling and construction project. Wegele is a native west Texan and graduate of Iowa’s University of Dubuque Theological Seminary. She and her husband, Rev. Ed Wegele, who grew up in Bondurant, moved to Iowa in 2020 from the state of Washington.  

Ed is the interim pastor at United Baptist Presbyterian Church in Mount Ayr, and works part-time as a job coach at Brick Street Bakery in Adel. 

“The wide range of possibilities that came with the newly completed space fit with my personal vision of how ‘the church’ is placed by God in a specific location, at a specific time, for a particular body of believers to take part in God’s mission,” said Pastor Nicole. “I am excited by how the space can be used to serve Dallas Center and the surrounding areas.” 

The church offers both in-person and online worship options. The 10 a.m. Sunday in-person worship service is streamed live through the church’s Facebook page at “fpcdallascenter” and YouTube. Worshipers also may listen to the Sunday worship service in the church parking lot or nearby Spurgeon Manor by tuning to FM radio station 93.1. 

More information about the church may be found on the church’s website at dcpresbyterian.org

A photo of the bell at First Presbyterian Church of Dallas Center.

A Tale of a Church “Mouse” and Bell

Long ago, in 1882, $400 was raised to purchase a bell for the tall spire of First Presbyterian Church in Dallas Center, the first church building to be erected in that prairie town. Horace Rathbun and George Rhinehart, whose descendants still attend First Presbyterian Church, traveled to Chicago to pick up the new bell, and bring it back to Dallas Center.

Harold “Mouse” McClure, a grandson of Horace Rathbun, recounted the story of the bell in a piece he wrote for the church’s Advent Book in 2018: “I am not sure if they went by horse and wagon, but think it probably was by train. My grandfather used a team of horses, hay rope, and a pulley from the barn to pull the bell [which weighed 1,000 lbs.] up into the bell tower. The bell was made in New York.”

The bell “followed” the congregation to its 1914 and 1998 buildings. The McClure family provided funds for the bell’s move to the present (1998) church building, and for future maintenance on the bell and its mechanical system. The church’s newsletter is called “Bellviews,” in honor of this beloved piece of church history.

Before he passed away in June 2020 at the age of 91, Mouse wrote the following for a book commemorating the 150th anniversary of First Presbyterian Church: “I’ve been a part of this church since I was an infant. In participating in Sunday School, Church Endeavor, Presbyteers [a social group for young people that he and his late wife, Jody, helped found in the 1940s], and as a 70-year member of the choir, I have gained friendships, love, comfort and faith. The 137-year-old church bell history has given seven generations of our family pride and joy every time we see it or hear it ring. My hope is that this church continues to be the center of my family, as well as for other church members, as it has been for my 90 years.”

“Amen” to that!