Finding the right anniversary gift for someone is never easy, but what do you get for the church that's celebrating its sesquicentennial?
Dennis and Judy Dailey believe they've found just the thing.
The Daileys, longtime members of First United Methodist Church, 946 Vt., have presented the congregation with an oil painting by Lawrence artist Paul Penny, as well as two rare photographs of early architectural renderings of the church.
The congregation, celebrating its 150th anniversary, got its first look at the painting and photos after worship services Jan. 11 at the official kickoff of the church's yearlong anniversary celebration.
The painting, which depicts a panorama of Vermont Street that includes three historic, downtown churches -- First United Methodist Church, Trinity Episcopal Church, 1011 Vt., and Plymouth Congregational Church, 925 Vt. -- is a gift to the congregation.
The two photographs are on loan to the church for a year. Then they will return to the Daileys.
Purchasing the oil painting for the church was a no-brainer for the couple. They saw Penny's 2003 painting a couple of months ago at a display of his work in the cafe at Hy-Vee Food Store, 3504 Clinton Parkway.
"My thought was that some church should own this, and since our church is celebrating our 150th, why not our church?" Dennis said.
"I thought it was an excellent idea," said Judy, who serves on the church's sesquicentennial committee.
The painting will hang in the grand staircase of the church's gathering area adjacent to the sanctuary.
Dennis, an avid collector of historic artifacts relating to Lawrence and KU, found the rare photographs on eBay, the online, auction marketplace.
One is a small photograph from 1872 -- called a Carte de Visite -- that shows an architectural rendering of the original church that was supposed to have been built at the present site of First United Methodist Church.
A widespread economic depression in 1873 forced that project to be canceled, and that planned structure, designed by architect George Wells, was never built. Only the foundation was dug.
The second photograph, called a cabinet card, shows an architectural rendering of John G. Haskell's design for the structure that would be built on the site: the present home of First United Methodist Church.
That project was undertaken in 1888, utilizing the foundation that already had been dug, and was completed in 1891.
"I was just blown away when Dennis and Judy brought them in. I had never seen Wells' plan (for the church). It's interesting to see what was planned and then what was eventually built on the original foundation," said the Rev. Sharon Howell, pastor of First United Methodist Church.
The rare photographs and the oil painting are an appropriate way to begin a celebration of the church's history, she said.
"It's important for us to remember our roots and those who sacrificed so that we can enjoy this phenomenal church -- not just its structure, but its faithfulness," Howell said.
The Daileys decided to give the painting to the church and loan the old photographs out of their love for Lawrence history and the congregation.
"I think it's a very significant time in the life of this church. We need to honor it, celebrate it and bring it to the attention of our young people," Judy said.