Historic Communion Set Returned to Illinois Church after a Half-Century

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After more than a half-century away, several pieces of the original communion set of First Christian Reformed Church in Fulton, Ill., have returned. And, as Helen (Putt) DeGroot will note, it has been quite a journey. 

From its founding in 1886, the church used this communion set until 1940 when a new set, with trays of individual glass wine cups, was purchased. DeGroot’s father, Rev. James Putt, served First CRC from 1940-1953.

For a while the pieces were stored in the kitchen of the church, forgotten until a remodel. At that time an elder gave four of the pieces, along with an old hand-held baptismal font, to Putt. DeGroot said that her mother often used the pieces for floral arrangements, even after they moved to California. 

There were two wine servers, a bread plate server, and one wine goblet that were later bestowed upon DeGroot. In the 1970s, she had them re-plated with silver; sadly, one wine goblet went missing. Still, she and her daughter continued to display them until DeGroot moved in 2010.

“When I again decided to move, I looked at the beautiful pieces that I had carefully packed away and realized that these pieces were old historical church pieces that should be displayed in the Fulton Church,” DeGroot said. 

Earlier this year DeGroot mailed the three and a small baptismal font to Delbert Housenga, a former member of First CRC who had received two of the other original wine goblets. Looking for his goblets, however, he discovered they were not to be found. Much to his surprise, on a visit to the local museum several weeks later, he saw them on display. It remains a mystery how they ended up there, but the museum allowed the pieces to re-unite with the others to go on display at the church. 

“This is a most unusual story and one that makes me feel excited and thankful that it all came together,” DeGroot said. “I am so thankful that as I aged I realized the historical value of these old artifacts and made contact with my old time Fulton friends to help in this momentous task with such marvelous results.” DeGroot now resides in Arkansas. 

A locked custom cabinet donated by Leanna Schipper from the memorial fund of her late husband, Leroy, now displays the six original pieces. 

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Melissa Holtrop

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