Recently, during the remodel of our church, an excavator removed a brick facing from an outside wall that did not match the rest of the building. As the old bricks came off, we discovered a marble plaque embedded in the foundation that read: “The site for this church bestowed in memory of Katherine Friedline.” Who was Katherine Friedline? What caused someone to purchase the property upon which a church could be built? And when did this dedication take place?
Those questions motivated an investigation that took me to Morris Hill Cemetery in Boise. The obelisk tombstone of Katherine Friedline indicated she was born on Jan. 6, 1883, and died on May 31, 1911, at the young age of 28. We were not able to ascertain what caused her early death, but it was obvious that someone, we assume her family, loved her so much that they donated funds in her honor in order to purchase the property upon which our church building rests.
Ada County records revealed that on May 1, 1912, the First Baptist Church of Boise purchased the two lots on the corner of 26th and Heron streets in Boise from the original developers, C.H. and Olive Packenham, for $800, which is the equivalent of over $18,000 in today’s value. Further records revealed the church took out a mortgage for $600, or about $14,000 in today’s money, with payments of $9 a month (about $200 today). The difference between the purchase price and the mortgage meant the church was able to put $200 (or $5,000 in today’s market) toward the purchase of this property. Again, we assume that family and friends gave this money in memory of this young lady. By placing this plaque on the foundation wall of the building, they wanted the memory of her life to continue — in connection with a church. In the ensuing 103 years, four different congregations have called this site their church home, but it has always been dedicated as a place of worship.
When this plaque was revealed, after so many years buried behind the brick facade, the present members of our congregation were overwhelmed with a sense of historical roots, reverence for the dedication of past generations, and an unspoken obligation to be faithful to the values that motivated this expression. Living in an era when few are interested in history, we felt particularly privileged to be tied to the past occupants of this church site.
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In order to have a healthy development, every person needs two things: “roots” and “wings.” “Roots” refer to having a foundation, a history, to anchor one’s life. When the inevitable “storms” of life strike, a person needs an underpinning to prevent destruction. A glamorous life can come crashing down in a crisis — without “roots,” the foundation to hold them.
“Wings” symbolize the challenge to grow, dream, and achieve. Proverbs 28:18 (KJV) says, “Where there is no vision, the people perish” If people have no view of a bright tomorrow, or their dreams have died, they live in a stupor of hopelessness, waiting for some inevitable end to their boredom and misery. People of all ages need “wings” to strive to reach their full potential, the reason why they exist! Even in the depression of his present circumstance, the prophet Isaiah wrote in 40:31: “But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.”
When we uncovered that old plaque on the side of our building, the members of our church received both “roots” and “wings.” We realized we were just the latest stewards of property dedicated as a place of worship over one hundred years ago. And that thought inspired us to recommit ourselves to share the “good news” that has been the hallmark of that corner of Boise’s north end.
The members of our church are grateful to the 1912 congregation of First Baptist of Boise for their dedication to establish this church home, and to the family and friends of Katherine Friedline who gave the impetus for the purchase.
So, Katherine, even though we never met you, we have decided to restore the plaque and place it back on the foundation of our building and make you an honorary member of our congregation. Your short life continues to inspire us, and we want your legacy to continue!
Loren A. Yadon is pastor of New Life Fellowship of Boise.
The Idaho Statesman's weekly faith column features a rotation of writers from many different faiths and perspectives.