On being ‘the church lady’…

Apr 11, 2010 | 2 comments

Historic Oysterville Church


    I love the old Oysterville Church.  I’ve always felt as though it belonged to the family. My earliest memories include the church right alongside my grandparents and other aging relatives.  So it seems natural that my concern for its continued well-being feels like an inherited responsibility. 
     The Espy family’s relationship with the church goes back to 1892 when my great-grandfather donated the land and $1500 to the Baptist congregation so that the church could be built.  Part of the deed said that if regular services ever stopped, the building and property would revert to his descendents. 
     As Oysterville’s fortunes declined, the Baptist congregation dwindled and they could no longer afford to employ a full-time preacher.  During the 1930s my grandfather and sometimes even my grandmother preached the sermon for the Sunday worship services; by the next decade the church was used only for the occasional wedding or funeral.
     One of my favorite church stories from that period involves my grandfather.  He, too, felt responsible for the aging building and did what he could to keep it maintained. He was in his eighties when a visitor to the village approached him as he was sweeping out the church vestibule.
     “Excuse me sir,” the stranger asked, “do you belong to this church?”
     “No, sonny,” was my grandfather’s reply.  “This church belongs to me.”          
     I know the feeling!  These days, though, the church belongs to the Oysterville Restoration Foundation, a non-profit group devoted to its continuing maintenance.  My mother and her brothers, following the provisions of the original deed, arranged for the transfer of ownership in the late 1970s, shortly after Oysterville was named a National Historic District. 
     The summer Sunday vesper services were started by my parents as a method of raising funds for the ongoing upkeep of the building.  For years it was my mother who worked with the peninsula’s ministers and musicians scheduling the ecumenical worship services.  When she no longer could manage, I “inherited” the position.  And that’s how I became ‘the church lady’ of Oysterville – with a lot of help from the rest of the community, I hasten to add!


  1. Rita Nicely

    Have you seen the ceramic replica of the church at the new art gallery in Ocean Park?


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