CHAMPAIGN — Easter has always been a special time for the Altar Guild at Emmanuel Memorial Episcopal Church.
From the building facing West Side Park, colorful hand-decorated eggs, many with a silly sensibility, have been hatching since 1927.
This might be one of the most special Easters ever: the last time the guild, which has an aging population, crafts the eggs.
Jill Knappenberger, a former president of the guild, said a recent vote suggested that the egg-decorating has become too much of an onerous task.
Times have changed. The eggs sold in a set of four for $20 once sold for two bits apiece in 1953. The first couple of years, the eggs were blown; for the rest, they have been hard-boiled.
They usually stay fresh for decades.
"The yolks and egg whites shrink in the shell over the years," Knappenberger said.
The Altar Guild's work begins in August and is just winding down now.
"We enjoy the work," Knappenberger said.
But women's roles have changed greatly, said Lori Dobrik, the church's office administrator.
"When they all started doing these eggs, women were Mrs. John Jones," she said. "Life is different now."
Knappenberger said the guild members enjoy all that comes with the long season of covering eggs with felt and paint.
Every Tuesday, the workers break at 11 to go to Huber's, where a favorite waitress brings them cookies, Dobrik said.
The faces of the eggs, whose history is documented in shelves on the office's walls, have changed from Walt Disney taking a lead — Donald Duck is one of the classics — to more of a Sesame Street feel.