VERSAILLES, Ohio (WDTN) — A historic Darke County church that closed more than a century ago is opening back up this Sunday.

Every year, on the third Sunday in September, St. Peter’s Lutheran Church in Versailles welcomes people for a trip back in time.

“My ancestors built this place when they settled over here. God takes care of it,” says Dick Shumaker.

Shumaker holds the key to the doors and the church’s history.

“1848 is when they built the place. 1850 is about the first service,” describes Shumaker. “My great great grandfather was the glockenspieler. He rang the bell when church was ready for service.” 

Services stopped in 1905, and the church closed; but not for good. For 118 years, the church opens once a year for a special homecoming and celebration service.

“Just to be part of it. The feeling that you get, the closeness to God,” tears up Shumaker.

The celebration will be held Sunday, September 17 starting at 2 p.m., but people start showing up around 12:30 p.m. to gather and take a peek inside.

“Everything’s like it was, even the books and the Bible,” says Shumaker. “Where else can you go to a church and see the stove in the middle of the floor?”

“The acoustics in here is just unbelievable,” exclaims Lisa Irey, Shumaker’s daughter. “When the pump organ starts playing it just kind of gives you chills.”

The Sunday service is also the one day a year when the church takes in donations. Maintaining Darke County’s oldest log cabin church takes money. A fresh coat of paint this year took a chunk out of their wallet.

“That cost about $7,600, so that took a big hit in our account,” admits Irey.

The yearly service is an opportunity to bring in some much-needed funds. Irey says they usually only collect between $600 and $800 on that Sunday.

“The cost of things are not going down,” says Shawn Unger, who is Shumaker’s great nephew and responsible for taking care of the church and the grounds.

“Just really want to see the church filled up, and not to sound greedy, but the offering plate to be filled up as well,” says Unger.

The celebration is a chance for people to preserve the past in each other’s presence.

“I feel the presence of God and the presence of the ancestors. It’s an honor to be here,” tears up Shumaker.

If you cannot attend and would like to donate to the church, you can do so through U.S. Bank in Versailles at 1231 East Main Street.