Friday, October 12, 2012

Saturday auction of First Family Church items has something for everyone

Posted By on Fri, Oct 12, 2012 at 3:26 PM

A veritable Garden of Eden of plastic ferns and flowers will be auctioned off tomorrow at the former First Family Church.
  • A veritable Garden of Eden of plastic ferns and flowers will be auctioned off tomorrow at the former First Family Church.

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." (Matthew 6:19-21)

Dorothy Gale from that <em>other</em> famous book is up for grabs.
  • Dorothy Gale from that other famous book is up for grabs.
One of the most famous fictional preachers in American literature, Elmer Gantry — that larger-than-life, narcissistic evangelist minister — was brought to life, at least partly, in Kansas City in 1926, as author Lewis Sinclair researched his novel here, attending local church services and interviewing many local preachers and ministers, including Robert Nelson Horatio Spencer, rector of the Grace and Holy Trinity Church, one of the largest congregations in town at that time.

One can only imagine what Sinclair Lewis would have made of a more recent preaching dynamo, the larger-than-life Rev. Jerry Johnston, pastor of the now-defunct megachurch, the First Family Church in Overland Park, and the recently disbanded New Day Church in Olathe. Before losing the First Family Church last year — the building went into foreclosure and the owner, Regions Bank, sold it last April — Johnston had a congregation that numbered 4,000 members as recently as 18 months ago.

A church with that many members requires a very big house of worship, and until this time last year, Johnston had one: a building that, from the highway, seems to appear as large as Ward Parkway Shopping Center.

The vast structure was still filled with a lot of things when the current owner, the Blue Valley School District, purchased the 51-acre property for $9 million. Blue Valley School District hired Lindsay Auction & Realty Service to sell off the unwanted goods: boxes of books, TV cameras, dozens of TV monitors, shelves of copiers, computers, toys, balls, a golf cart, and enough kitchen equipment to set up two restaurants and, maybe, a bakery and at least a half-dozen of the least attractive upholstered sofas imaginable.

There was a public preview today of the hundreds of items to be auctioned off tomorrow by the auctioneers, beginning at 7 a.m.

Ride to salvation on Pepper the Pony.
  • Ride to salvation on Pepper the Pony.
The curiosity seekers came from all parts of the city to see what the Johnston family had left behind when they made their exodus from this cream-and-blue stucco coliseum for Christ. The treasure trove includes gilded mirrors, plastic plants, an abundance of professional sound equipment, and the sort of goofy gee-gaws one finds in any less glamorous church basement jumble sale.

There are a couple of shiny glass pastry cases, a professional-grade Hobart mixing machine, lots of plastic coffee carafes, plates and glassware, and a gleaming steel three-spigot coffee brewer that could easily provide enough java for a midsized college campus. There's even a box with several old eyeglasses. I wondered if it was a relic from the church's "Lost & Found" department. A child-sized store mannequin is dressed up as Dorothy Gale from the Wizard of Oz, but sporting a pair of dark sunglasses.

"It's gonna be a real madhouse here tomorrow, I'll bet," said a woman peeking through the boxes of hardback books. " I wonder how the prices are going to go?"

Go ask Dorothy.

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