September 30, 2014

By Fred Koenig

Some women from Taylor Chapel in Sedalia invited Elaine Ray to church for the Easter program. Then she started going to Sunday school, then youth choir, and MYF. That was more than 60 years ago. 
    
“Those ladies are all gone now, but I’m still here,” she said. Ray has served as chair of the finance committee, chair of the administrative council, treasurer, Sunday school teacher, Sunday school superintendent and choir member. She also cleans the church when it’s her week. 
    
“In a small church you have to all take turns,” she said. 
    
After completing college, Ray taught school in Kansas City. There she lived with her college roommate’s parents. She attended the Baptist church with them, but sometimes she would walk to Centennial UMC to go to church on her own. 
    
“I sang in the choir at the Baptist church, and they often asked me join, but I would say, ‘No, I’m a Methodist.’”
    
After three years in Kansas City she had an opportunity to get a teaching job back in Sedalia. There she taught another 35 years before retiring. Now that she’s retired, she still teaches high school equivalency classes.
    
Through the years, she also put her teaching skills to use at the church. As a Sunday school teacher, Ray has taught children who later had children that they brought to church, and Ray taught the next generation. She doesn’t see much of that anymore, though. 
    
“There are not a lot of employment opportunities here, so many young people move away when they get out on their own,” she said. 
    
She considers her two nieces who attended Taylor Chapel, and now live in Kansas City and Dallas. They are both still active in church now. 
    
“We only have a small window of opportunity to catch and influence children and youth. I want them to remember something from here that will help carry them through life,” Ray said. “When they have a problem later in life, they can look back and say, ‘I learned how to handle that at Taylor Chapel.’” 
    
Although Taylor Chapel is a small church, it remains outwardly focused. It provided free lunches for children and adults through the summer on Tuesdays and Thursdays. They host a large block party for the community on their empty lot across the street from the church each fall. In the spring they provide a free dinner at the Sedalia Housing Authority. They collect canned food for the local food bank, and participate in the Festival of Sharing.