ALGONA - When her home church closed its doors more than eight years ago, Algona native Julie Dodds knew she had to find a new purpose for the place where her family had worshipped for generations.
The Good Hope United Methodist Church northwest of Algona and south of Lone Rock on 90th Avenue in Kossuth County was deconsecrated in July 2005 after 108 years of service, and most of its contents were sold at auction.
"Our family has had connections with this church for many years," said Dodds, an orthopedic surgeon in Lansing, Mich. "Our father's grandparents were early members, we grew up here, our mom played the organ for more than 60 years."
-Messenger photo by Emilie Nelson-Jenson
Susan Busch, of Fort Dodge, left, and her sister Julie Dodds, of Lansing, Mich., at the piano in the sanctuary of the former Good Hope Methodist Church north of Algona. The Dodds family attended the church for many years. Julie Dodds purchased the church and parsonage and is opening it as a quilting and scrapbooking retreat center.
The Dodds family lived on a farmstead just south of the church where their mother, Helena, still lives today. Being nearby, Julie Dodds said the church became like a second home growing up.
"We all attended church there, and worked and served there," she said. "We did a lot over the years, we were janitors, Sunday school teachers, Bible school teachers."
"This church was a community center," said Dodds' sister, Susan Busch, of Fort Dodge. "We have lots of memories of weddings, funerals, church dinners. We were baptized and confirmed here. I was married here."
With the closing of the church, Dodds didn't want to let those memories, or the building that housed them, die.
When the auction was held on July 17, 2005, Dodds flew home from Michigan to purchase the organ her mother had played for so many years.
"I wanted to buy the organ for my mother," she said.
What she didn't expect to buy at first was the church building itself.
"I didn't come to buy it," she said. "But there were several people looking at it that had ideas of what they would use it for."
Concerned it wouldn't be taken care of, Dodds put in the winning bid and became the new owner of the church.
"My husband didn't believe me; I called him and said I had bought the church," she said. "At that time I had no idea how I was going to use it. I just didn't want to see this place die or deteriorate."
For seven years, the church building and parsonage were used for various purposes including occasional church services.
"It just wasn't being used to its potential," said Dodds.
Over the past year, Dodds has been working to update the parsonage and repurpose the church as a quilting and scrapbooking retreat center, which she named The Quilted Steeple.
The house has a new kitchen and remodeled bathrooms, along with five themed bedrooms featuring colorful quilts made by several different quilters. The church building will have one bedroom and a loft with beds, a kitchen and workspace for sewing machines and scrapbooking materials. There is also a long-arm quilting machine in the church.
It will be available to rent for groups and weekend retreats. Dodds hopes they will be able to host workshops and quilting lectures in the church sanctuary in the future.
"It will be a place for groups to stay, and we will feed them while they are here," said Dodds.
Busch will help run the retreat when her sister returns to Michigan.
"Susan will run the shop and retreat, but my hope is I can retire here on the family farm someday," Dodds said.
The sanctuary of the church is still set up with pews and the organ and piano which were in the building when it closed.
Busch said the church and house can also be rented for special events such as weddings.
"It is still set up as a church, bridal parties can come here for a rural wedding," she said. "It's going to be very multipurpose."
The first public event at the Quilted Steeple was held Saturday with an open house and quilt show.