I ran errands on Tuesday. My list contained those pricey, un-sexy items I hate to spend money on. Printer cartridges. Electric toothbrush heads. Dog medicine.
I left the vet’s office with a much smaller bank account balance and headed for the thrift store next door. I wouldn’t spend much time there. I was looking for just one thing: Church plates.
I collect church commemorative plates for several reasons:
- Old church buildings are interesting. Most of them reflect their time and place, or their denomination. And most old churches, with their steeples and stained glass windows, are a good bit prettier than the big-box churches that are all the rage today.
- Stories about churches are stories of hope. When a church commissioned a plate, they had the option of furnishing a paragraph to be stamped on the back. Those paragraphs speak of hope and purpose. They quote scripture, and celebrate the ministry of their congregation. The stories remind me that a church is not a building. A church is a group of believers, doing life together.
- Each plate connects me to history. I own a plate from the church where my parents were married, and one from the church where my husband grew up. I used to have a beautiful plate from Denmark, Iowa, the town my father-in-law is from. I displayed it on a shelf in my kitchen until it broke in the Great Door Slamming Incident of 2001. I kept the broken pieces for years.
The plates I’ve collected from thrift stores and garage sales are clues to the settling of America. One history begins, “St. Paul’s Evangelical and Reformed Church, Knox, Pennsylvania, founded by German pioneers from Westmoreland County, was organized formally on January 9, 1813.” Another says, “Shell Creek Evangelical Lutheran Church was organized on February 2, 1874, at Newman Grove, Nebraska. Its founders were Norwegian pioneer settlers.”
The plate I bought on Tuesday has the most interesting history paragraph of my collection:
“The Armourdale Baptist Church was chartered in 1887. The buildings pictured here speak both of the unique stability of this congregation, and of its historic determination to remain as a witness in the Armourdale community. In spite of four floods and a devastating fire, the present facility stands less than one block from the site of the original building.”
The plate celebrated the church’s 100th anniversary: 1887-1987, but Armourdale Baptist Church is still in operation in Kansas City, Kansas. Today it reflects its neighborhood’s changed demographics by partnering with a Spanish-speaking church and offering services in English and Spanish.
In my research for this post I found loads of church plates for sale on e-bay, and I read about the world’s largest church plate collection—over 3,000! None of that appeals to me. My collection is strictly small-time, a low-budget diversion at thrift stores and a curiosity to display in my home.
What do you collect, and why?