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Couple restores 150-year-old church in rural Iowa

DENVER (AP) — A couple is restoring a 150-year-old church believed to be the second-oldest in Black Hawk County because of fear it would otherwise disappear like so many other churches in rural Iowa.

Martha Reineke and her husband, William Cozart, are restoring the former East Janesville United Methodist Church southwest of Denver, Iowa, The Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier reported.

“It has existed since 1867, and we thought it deserved to keep existing,” Reineke said. “While we can’t answer the question of forever, we can at least give it life for several decades.”

They plan to reopen it as a country wedding chapel and community events center.

“This would be something that would help at least pay part of the cost of restoring it,” Reineke said.

Reineke said the building drew little interest when it was put up for sale. It has been vacant since the aging 38-member congregation disbanded in July 2011.

The building has been stabilized, and foundation cracks have been repaired. The basement has been gutted, and water has been connected.

“I’m not really a person who believes in signs,” she said. “But if I did, I’d say that was a sign we were meant do do this, to save the church.”

Old church bulletins show the original congregation began holding services in homes around the area in 1845. Members signed a charter and raised money to build the church in 1867 after John Stears donated a piece of land.

Reineke says she hopes the chapel will be ready for use in the spring of 2018, but that it still needs zoning approval from the county Board of Supervisors.

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