by Nancy M. Wynant
Chapter I: In the Beginning
In the beginning, only God could have known what choices his people would make to enable the fairly new Protestant Christian denomination known as Methodism to be a presence and a viable force in the community of Pendleton, Indiana.
In your mind's eye, please look back now to the year 1820 and visualize six white men tracking through the dense woods that then covered this wilderness area. They have come from Springfield, Ohio, seeking farmland and waterpower, space, and opportunity to carve new lives in a new way and a new place. They have forded streams and rivers, encountered Indians and wild animals and finally pitch their tents on the banks of Fall Creek. Fall Creek is a tributary of White River. The Delaware Indian name for the creek with its falls meant "Spilt Water." The Miami name translated as "Makes a Noise Place." The falls at Pendleton were the only waterfall of any size in central Indiana.
Apparently attracted to this spot by the falls, the creek, and rich soil, the men began the backbreaking work of hewing out of this wilderness homes and fields and gardens for the future. Two of these men we know were Elias Hollingsworth and his brother-in-law William Curtis. Two more men from Indianapolis joined them shortly, and rude dwellings were erected about two or three miles southwest of the falls.
In May of 1820, Elias Hollingsworth returned to Ohio to bring back his wife, Elizabeth. This lady was the first white woman to come to Madison County, and their son was the first white child born here.
The Hollingsworths were religious people. It is said that Elizabeth "was a Godly woman and a kindly one, ever ready to minister to the needs of her family and friends," and that Elias was "something of a preacher himself." At any rate, as little cabins began to spring up along Fall creek and more families came to live in this settlement, they felt some religious organization should be formed for regular worship. Thus, early in 1823, just 195 years ago, a small group of friends met at the Hollingsworth cabin and established the first Methodist organization in Madison County, known as the Pendleton Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church. Charter members were Thomas Pendleton, his wife Mary and their daughter; Mrs. Thomas McCartney; Mrs. Samuel Holliday; Samuel Hundley and wife; James Scott and wife; and Elias and Elizabeth Hollingsworth. The McCartneys and Pendletons lived in town; Pendleton had recorded 160 acres of land in January of 1823; the McCartney land was actually entered earlier, and the McCartney cabin would have been just northwest of the falls on Main Street. William and Thomas McCartney were early mill owners, taking advantage of the falls. Others of the group apparently lived as much as three or four miles away. We do not know whether they were able to meet weekly. But the establishment of a lay organization and the coming together in class meetings to share together was a part of Methodist tradition from its very beginnings. The Pendleton Society was to meet in one another's homes for nine years.
Chapter II: The Area Grew and Circuit Riders Came
The settlers and founders of this very church congregation were risk takers, they were adventurous, and they were young. Methodism in America was characterized by youthful vigor and its appeal to the "common folk." It was noted for piety and stern rules of study, but also for open-mindedness and joy. Reading of sermons was not tolerated on the frontier; any minister had to speak extemporaneously and with fire and zeal. When our little band of settlers formed the Pendleton Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church in 1823 and began meeting in one another's cabins for worship, they relied on reading the Bible and on prayer and personal testimony.
At this time, there were no circuits in this part of Indiana. Southern Indiana near the capital of Corydon, had riders as an offshoot of the Ohio, Illinois, and Missouri conferences. but none came farther north than Indianapolis. As the Falls settlement grew, however, some wandering missionary circuit riders did come to the growing area at infrequent intervals. One Rev. Benjamin Miller, a Methodist preacher, was among the 94 men from the Pendleton area who signed a petition in 1825, requesting clemency for James Bridges, Jr., the 18-year old who had been sentenced to hang for his part in the massacre of Indians about eight or nine miles from the falls. If you remember the story, clemency was allowed with a dramatic flourish by Governor James Brown Ray who rode up to the gallows at the very last moment to save the boy from hanging.
Other early circuit riders mentioned in this area included a Rev. Taylor and Rev. Nathan Fairchild. We can only imagine the joy with which these circuit riders were received. Homes would have been thrown open for these heavenly messengers and word sent out far and near that a preacher had come. In the isolation of the wilderness, the settlers longed for companionship, and the minister was a considerable personage in a community. Circuit riders were part of the vigorous Protestant evangelization of Indiana which triumphed over mud and malaria.
Bishop Asbury, who had been elected superintendent of the newly formed Methodist Episcopal Church in the United States in 1784, had envisioned these riders going out to "seek the lost sheep of the House of Israel." Meetings in the homes and forest glens with these itinerant preachers held the little Pendleton group together until they could have a circuit rider of their own.
By 1828, the Illinois Conference had spread its stations over all of central Indiana, and a preacher was appointed to the Fall Creek Circuit which included Pendleton. In 1829, Rev. Asa Beck served this circuit, and we have the names of a continuous line of pastors who served this church from that date to the present. In 1984, Methodism in the United States celebrated its 200th Anniversary. The symbol of that anniversary became the circuit rider. The stained-glass circuit rider above the front door of this church is Pendleton First's salute to those intrepid missionaries and their contribution to our own church's continuous ministry.
Chapter III: Circuit Riders and the First Church
These first circuit riding pastors had to have a knowledge of horsemanship and woods lore as well as filled saddle bags. They were a sort of early-day bookmobile. Frontier conditions called for young and strong men to do this work. They rarely married, and many died early of hardships. It was said they would ride anywhere there was a cabin with folks "hungerin' for the word." Harsh weather was said to be "fitten only for crows and Methodist preachers." God's horsemen were these messengers, sometimes of rough exterior, often uneducated, but with warm hearts. No trail was too long or too lonely, too tortuous or forbidding if it led to a cabin. Salaries were $80 or less a year. They lived with the pioneers they served.
The circuit riders of Methodism captured the frontier by giving the pioneer backwoodsman a Christianity he could live with. It was zealous rather than learned, simple as befits a rustic environment, as straight-talking as the pioneers themselves. It fitted its time. These itinerant preachers probably were the greatest single force in bringing "order out of frontier chaos," but we should also remember and honor lay people like our little "Pendleton Society" who, in 1823, made a place for a circuit.
According to reminiscence by a gentleman who came to Pendleton in 1830 as a young boy, Methodist church meetings were held some of the time in a room in the cabin of Alfred Kilgore. This room doubled as a school, probably by subscription. This writer also speaks of Methodist meetings in Thomas Pendleton's house which was built around 1830-31 on the location of what is now our Post Office. This, apparently, was one of several houses occupied by the Pendletons.
In 1830, Thomas Pendleton set aside Lot 32 on Water Street for the use of the Methodists; Circuit preacher William Evans accepted the land on December 25, 1830. However, it was not until April 18, 1832 that Thomas Pendleton and his wife deeded to the trustees of the church the lot that is now 113 West Water Street. This first church in Madison County was a cabin of round logs. It was erected under the direction of Martin Chapman, Sr. This building was also one of the first Methodist Episcopal churches in the State of Indiana. Under the pastorate of Rev. I. N. Ellsbury, regular meetings were begun.
In 1823, the population of Madison County was less than 1,000; by 1830 the population was 2,242. Pendleton had been replaced as county seat by Andersontown in 1827 although court continued to be held in the courthouse next to the Thomas McCartney's until 1830.
In 1832, A Sabbath School was formed with Absalom Ulen, Nathan Lindsay, and Martin Chapman as leaders. We are in the rather unique position, here at Pendleton First, of having direct descendants of some of these early leaders as members of our church. Absalom Ulen was the Great-great grandfather of Bob Wynant, and Martin Chapman was the Great great grandfather of Alfred New. The New family has preserved some of the tools used by Chapman in constructing that 1832 log church to this day.
Chapter IV: A New Church Building
Early Methodists believed that the groves were God's first temples, and each year during the1830's a camp meeting was held, first on the Hundley grounds, three miles southeast, then on the Frank Richmond place. Meeting in the groves, people were exhorted to repentance, prayer, and faith. At these gatherings people fell under the power of the word "like corn before a storm of wind." People came from far and near and stayed for days. It was the great event of the year.
During these 1830's, the tide of Methodism was sweeping the frontier like a prairie fire. By 1839, the Pendleton Society had outgrown its little log cabin. This cabin church, the first in Madison County, was pulled down and a frame church measuring 40 x 60 feet was erected on the same site. The cost was $1,800. Martin Chapman who had overseen the construction of the cabin church was again the carpenter. A great bit of the money and also carpentering were contributed by Adam Dobson. This was said to be the finest church in the county at the time. Heated by two large stoves and lighted by candles and later by lamps on high posts, the new building was quite luxurious for that day. An early settler recalled It was generally very nearly filled as population was also increasing in Huntsville. Other settlers had begun to arrive from West Virginia as well as Pennsylvania and Ohio.
Quite a number came to church on Sabbath mornings, many spending the remainder of the day with friends and going to church at night. Methodist quarterly meetings were of two or three days duration, from Friday afternoon and lasting through Sundays. There were frequently united meetings between Methodists and Baptists. The most amazing revelation regarding this new building is that it would seat 600 people! All meetings of importance in this entire area were held there, and people came great distances to attend.
By this time, Pendleton had several outlying charges tended by the same minister, and in 1843, Pendleton was the head of a district itself. Charges in this district included East Indianapolis, Noblesville, Westfield, Pipecreek, Andersontown, Marion, Newcastle, Knightstown, Greenfield and Pendleton! About this same time the Indiana Conference was divided in half with all churches north of the National Road, which is now U.S. 40, in North Indiana Conference and those south of that road in South Indiana Conference. Apparently this road remained the dividing line until around the time of the merger with the United Brethren in 1968.
Chapter V: Growth and Sabbath Schools
In the 1850's the day of circuit riders had come to an end. The Pendleton Methodist Episcopal Church in its frame church located at 113 West Water Street was experiencing great growth, and Pendleton built its first parsonage at the southwest corner of West and High Streets in 1854. Our pastors and their families lived there until 1900. By 1865, Pendleton ministers were being paid $600- $700 per year, although some part of that was usually in the form of produce. Crops could be raised, but dollars were hard to come by.
With the building of the new church in 1839, average Sabbath School attendance was around 100 each Sunday. The Sabbath School continued to grow and was always an important part of the church. The entire membership was divided into classes, and many excellent and dedicated teachers gave diligent guidance. Testimony and song were the order of the day, and even children were expected to speak. A one-room building next door to the church was called Solomon's Temple and was the meeting place of mid-week classes and was sometimes used as a Sunday School room. The early records that we still have date from 1869 and contain page after page of class lists of the Sunday School classes. Interspersed from time to time, one finds records of baptisms, weddings, etc., but most of the pages are class lists. Sunday School seems to have been of extreme importance to these early Pendleton Methodists.
After the Civil War, there were many patriotic gatherings in the church when the Grand Army of the Republic almost filled the building.
In 1877-78, it became necessary to remodel and enlarge the church building. Two Sunday School classrooms were added. but one of the most interesting occurrences, was the intermingling of men and women. Until this time men and women occupied opposite sides of the church, but now there were no restrictions. A few years ago during one of our historical celebrations, we asked people to separate themselves with men on one side and women the other. It seemed very strange to us, but just over one hundred years ago, it seemed the best way for congregants to focus on their reason for being in church and to worship and praise the Lord, Jesus Christ!
Chapter VI: Music and Groups
Congregational singing was universal in early Methodist churches. There were few hymn books; the minister lined off the hymns. Some years ago, Helen Michael found a tiny hymnal at a sale and gave it to us for use in one of our historical celebrations. It is small, probably in order to take up less room on the arduous journey by horse and wagon to the frontier. It has only words, no notes. The song leader would give the pitch from his tuning fork, and all would join in with enthusiasm and fervor. There were no organs. The innovation of an organ or a fiddle was often the occasion of churches dividing. Such was the case at Pendleton. Until nearly 1870, no musical instrument was allowed in our church since musical instruments were considered sinful. The episode which followed came to be known here as "The Devil's Chorus." Objections to musical instruments were overruled and they were brought in. In 1876, Dr. James Stephenson presented an organ to the church. Two pews near the front of the church were removed to make way for the organ since there was no platform in the church. We surmise some members were disgruntled and left, but an early historian states, "Through the years since then faithful organists and singers have added much to the services." We would certainly say "Amen" to that now!
All during the early growth of the church, many other branches of the organization came into being such as Missionary Societies, young people's groups, and executive boards for governance of the church's business. 1879 Minutes of the North Indiana Conference report on a society to be called the "Ladies and Pastors' Christian Union" which would be a "great auxiliary in reaching the neglected masses of the people." The 1880 Minutes report on the "Women's Foreign Missionary Society" as an "efficient agency in the world's redemption." The "Women’s Home Missionary Society" is mentioned in 1885 Minutes, and the "Epworth League" for young people is mentioned in 1890 and 1891. These were forerunners, of course, of some of our current organizations. United Methodist Women has evolved from the missionary societies and the Ladies' Aid societies. Ladies' Aid was formed in Pendleton around 1879; these women assumed care of the church and parsonage. The missionary societies signaled a time of outreach. With their advent, Methodists in Pendleton and elsewhere were ready to serve those outside of the local community. The Industrial Revolution made a huge difference in people's lifestyles and attitudes. Whereas the early circuit riders ministered to our forebears, now our church was ready to minister to others. Meanwhile, with the young people, the Epworth League meetings, named for John Wesley's home in Epworth, England, afforded socialization as well as spiritual growth. The Epworth Leagues in Indiana were active in raising funds to build Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis. Attending Epworth League on Sunday evenings is well within the memory of some of the current members of this church.
Chapter VII: A New Red Brick Building
After the Civil War, there were many patriotic gatherings in the Pendleton Methodist Episcopal Church built in 1839. Meetings of the Grand Army of the Republic, temperance meetings, oratoricals, and commencements. About 1890, gas lights replaced the kerosene lamps.
Meanwhile, other areas of the county were also growing, especially Anderson. Several denominations had also founded congregations, and newer and more modern church buildings were being built. In 1904, a pastor was appointed to our church, and according to the record, he immediately began "agitating the question of a new church." Reverend Theo F. Frech was successful in convincing the congregation of this need. In addition, with the growth of the community, it was felt a more centrally located site would be helpful.
This present location at the corner of West and State Streets was purchased from the Cook family at a cost of $1,200. The corner stone of the church was laid May 14, 1905. The new church was dedicated to Almighty God on Sunday, January 7, 1906, by Reverend Dr. Parr of Kokomo. Interestingly, the cost of lot and building were estimated in advance to be around $20,000. The building complete cost $15,800. Of this amount $7,000 remained to be raised on the day of dedication. Dr. Parr, who was said to be a wizard of finance, was equal to the emergency. In the morning, after a soul-stirring sermon, $6,700 was raised. In the afternoon, $325, and at night $1,100, making the sum total $8,125. After the money raised, the dedication service began. The church value was $17,000, and at the time of dedication, the building was paid for and the church was $1,125 ahead. Amazing!
The new red brick building was 65 x 84 feet in size and was Gothic in style. Doors and windows were arched over with gray cement brick, giving a mass1veappearance. The foundation was Bedford stone, rising to a height of 8 feet from grade line. The West Street entrance led to the basement and auditorium, and there were three entrances from State Street. A Wilson rolling partition separated the auditorium from the lecture room. The interior of the church was finished with quarter-sawed red oak, benches were golden oak. The interior was beautifully frescoed, and velvet carpet covered the entire auditorium and lecture room. A Frink reflector with sixteen lights was located in the center of the auditorium. The slate roof was surmounted by four towers. A 1906 newspaper article concerning the dedication states, "Other churches may be larger, few are more beautiful. "Some items from that 1905 church were placed in our Memorial chapel here in this building. The small pew next to the front east wall is an original ushers’ pew from that era.
The Ladies Aid Society had been the prime movers in raising funds for the building of the church. A pipe organ was installed soon after the dedication, but a much better one replaced it in 1917. In later years this organ was somewhat difficult to keep in tune, but then, as now, often our church Trustees rose to the challenge of maintenance. We do have among our church historical records, papers concerning the purchase of this 1917 pipe organ. Electric lights were installed soon after.
Chapter VIII: Parsonage and Remembrances
We mentioned earlier that a small parsonage had been built at the corner of West and High Streets, the Dr. Reid corner, and ministers and their families lived there until 1900 when a new parsonage was purchased on West Street located on the lot just south of the church. This building served its purpose until 1957. Later, after some exchange of properties, it returned to our ownership known as the "Green house," and just a few years later was torn down to make way for a children's play area and gravel parking spaces just south of this building. Later the whole area was paved as a parking lot.
Around 1894, at least in Pendleton, the Methodist policy of moving pastors every three years was put in place. The earliest minister about whom we have a written memory was E. E. Trippeer who served this church from 1910 until1912. Byron Foust, now deceased, was a long-time member of this church and shared with us when we celebrated Methodism's 200th year in the United States in 1984. Mr. Foust remembered Rev. Trippeer as a "feisty" sort of preacher who was interested in gymnastics and athletics and set up gym rings and other equipment in the basement of the church to the consternation of some other members. Trippeer commanded the interest of a large group of young men of the community, however, and it was because of his influence that Mr. Foust became a member of this church on February 2, 1911.
Take a moment to look for a picture that has hung in the front building for several years; you may have passed by it without realizing just what it depicts. Mr. Foust painted what we believe the 1832 and 1839 churches looked like, as well as how we know the 1905 church appeared. And then, he also portrayed our present building. You have the history of Pendleton First's buildings all here in one painting.
The population of Madison County which was less than 1,000in 1823, had quickly escalated. By 1895, because of the railroad and the discovery of natural gas, the population of Pendleton, itself, was 3,000. The early industries such as grist mills had disappeared by the 1870's, leaving grain elevators and other industries introduced by the railroad.
Natural gas in 1889 brought the first gas well drilled near the business district. This brought a boom with manufacturing to take the place of the mills. Glass factories and small engine factories led to plans to provide gas in homes for light and cooking. Then, as now, it was thought that this natural resource was inexhaustible, which it did not prove to be. The supply quickly dwindled, and the glass factories also disappeared. We might note, however, that the home of our member Tammy McKean, still uses gas from its own natural gas well.
With the end of the gas boom, population in Pendleton fell to 1,293 in 1910, and the figure have stayed between 2,000 and 2,500 until fairly recently. Stores and hotels which had been necessary in earlier years to accommodate the traveler on horseback were no longer needed. Pendleton was a far different community in the early 1900's than it had been in 1823; society had changed, and so had our church. There is some evidence that the 1839 building site on Water Street was later used as a skating rink and basketball court. We wonder what the Pendleton Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church of 1823 would have thought of that?
Chapter IX: The Merger
Now, by the time the 1905 church was built, the Methodist Episcopal Church was not the only church in Pendleton. Some years before, a group of Evangelical United Brethren residents of the community had established a church. While local records are not available, we know that this group built a red brick church on East High Street in 1902. Historically there was a close relationship between the Evangelicals, the United Brethren, and the Methodists. These groups favored revivals, camp meetings, and the experience of conversion. It was expected that both members and preachers would be seriously committed to the faith. Preachers were to possess a sound conversion, a divine calling, and gifts and skills for an effective ministry. The deep commitment of the general membership was exhibited by their willingness to adhere to spiritual discipline and standards of conduct. Membership in the Church was serious business. There was no place for the "almost Christian.
The United Brethren approved ordination for women in 1889, while full clergy rights for women were not granted Methodists until after the Methodist Episcopal Church and the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, put aside the bitterness of the Civil War and reunited in 1939. A merger in 1968 united the Evangelical United Brethren and the Methodist Episcopals into the United Methodists; however, 1968 was a really big year for this church, and that story comes later in our historical chronicle.
The next pastor about whom we have first-hand memories was J. W. Powell who served here from 1918 to 1927. We have several recollections of Reverend Powell. One of his daughters resided in a mobile home park in Bradenton, Florida, where so many Pendleton people winter; she told Joy Henderson that her father was instrumental in helping the Reformatory to locate here, and we provided the church facility for a large meeting where the plan was discussed. In that regard, the late Jane Walker told us she was a member of the Current Events Club at that time, and they voted against the location of the Reformatory in Pendleton. Mrs. Walker also remembered Rev. Powell coming to their home to visit her after the birth of her babies. Joy Henderson remembers that Reverend Powell supported and coached her for a state Oratorical Contest which she won. Helen Michael also remembers being in school with some of the Powell children.
Here are some remembrances our members related to us in 1984 regarding history of the church and its pastors within their lifetimes. Many of these memories have been recalled by ladies of the church, and accordingly several have to do with pastor's wives. For example, the late Jane Walker remembered that the wife of Rev. J. H. Palmer who served here from 1931 to 1933 always cooked liver in the oven for 3 or 4 hours. That doesn't have anything to do with the church, but it says something about the culture at the time.
From 1927 through 1931, our pastor was D. C. Beatty, and the late Helen Michael remembers his family. His wife, Esther, formed a class of girls of which Helen was a member. The class was called "Esther's Girls." Mrs. Beatty once asked Helen why she had not joined the church. Helen informed her she planned to wait until she married and then join the church her husband belonged to. Mrs. Beatty asked Helen whether she didn't think she might marry a man who would want his wife already to be a church member. Helen thought that sounded possible, so she joined the church then.
We're speaking now of the years of the "Great Depression." We can only imagine the difficulties for the church at that time to stay afloat while all about it, families were struggling to feed and clothe their children. Those were not easy days for anyone.
Chapter X: More Pastors After World War II
Rev. J. F. Seelig was appointed here from 1933 to1937, and there are several recollections of that period. Rev. Seelig was considered very outgoing and friendly, and the tale is told that he once entered a Pendleton tavern and began to invite one and all to attend church, telling the people that we needed them. The late Harriet Sibera remembered that Rev. Seelig had been a Chaplain in the Army, loved music, and even composed some songs. Joy Henderson remembered also that he was very musical and served as a pianist and song leader at Epworth Forest camps in the summer. He is said to have been most considerate of other's feelings.
From 1937 to 1942, Rev. R. H. Wehrly served here, and again remembrances go mainly to his wife who was most instrumental in forming the Women's Society of Christian Service out of the previous Ladies' Aid and Women's Home Missionary Societies. She was also quite active with children and the Sunday School. One story about Rev. Wehrly concerns a Sunday evening when the Elliott and Reichenbach children were across the street from the church playing badminton. Rev. Wehrly crossed the street, told them it was time for Epworth League, and waited until they came over to the meeting. The game was never finished that evening. The late Grace Elliott remembered that good story.
Apparently, Reverend Manfred Wright suffered from some degree of deafness; he was stationed here from 1942 to 1944, and was considered somewhat uncommunicative, possibly as a result of not hearing well. In spite of this handicap, he was said to be a true "Christian gentleman," and one of the best educated, intelligent ministers we had ever had. His wife, Nonnie, taught in the high school while they were here. Again, it was a minister's wife who brought someone into membership in the church. Jane Rider Goff credits Mrs. Wright with John Rider's decision to join our fellowship.
At this point in time, of course, the United States was involved in World War II. Rev. C. C. Wischmeier served this church from 1944 to 1947. A very serious and very German gentleman, Rev. Wischmeier had a son in service at the time; and it is remembered that like many other parents, he had a very deep concern for his son's safety. His wife had been a Methodist deaconess before their marriage, and was also a most pious, frugal, and serious person. Those of us who were teenagers at the time found this couple difficult to relate to, and some of the pranks at Epworth League and Epworth Forest summer camps almost got out of hand, in ways that would seem rather innocent today.
The decades of the 1950's and 1960's saw a great amount of activity and growth for this church. L. Wayne Eller served a ten-year assignment from 1947 to 1957. One of the first significant events was the decision in 1950 that something drastic must be done to rehabilitate the church facility which was now 44 years old. Apparently, little had been done since its occupancy in 1906. All of 1951 was given over to repair and redecoration of the church structure and raising funds to accomplish this refurbishing. In February 1952, our beautifully shining place of worship was rededicated. It was said at the time that all departments of the church had worked hard to make this possible and were justly proud of the results.
Chapter XI: Updating the Church and a New Parsonage
We now enter the 1950's era of our church history. The 1950's saw a resurgence of religious interest throughout the United States, and Pendleton Methodism was not an exception. After all, the country had come through a horrendous depression, an even more horrible World War, and even though the Korean Conflict was taking a new generation of our young people in the 1950's, thousands and thousands of young men and women had come away from World War II to face a radically different home front from anything they had known before.
Following the redecoration of our red brick church in 1951-52, the congregation found that due to an increase in church and Sunday School attendance, it was necessary to add facilities to meet those needs. When we described the red brick church erected in 1905-06, we mentioned the Wilson rolling partition that divided the auditorium, or sanctuary, from the lecture room. The lecture room had been intended for adult Sunday School classes, but most Sunday's by this time, the partition was rolled back, and congregants filled both rooms. Other classrooms surrounded the lecture room, and every nook and cranny in the basement was put into use. Parents of nursery children brought in buckets and mops, paint and brushes, and chipped in to purchase and lay floor tile in the nursery; Sunday School teachers painted and cleaned small rooms leading off the large basement to use for their classes, and the basement dining room was used for Junior church as well as many all-church carry-in dinners, banquets, W.S.C.S. meetings, Ushers' dinners, and Youth Fellowship meetings. (Somewhere during this time,"Epworth League" came to be known as "Methodist Youth Fellowship.") In 1955, a lot with a small dwelling located immediately east of the church was purchased and used as a parish house. This building housed the church office, Sunday School classes, and committee meetings.
Meanwhile, negotiations were being conducted to provide a new parsonage. Ministers and their families were still living in the green house just south of the church that had been purchased in 1900. A member of the church, Mrs. Maude Bolinger, lived across State Street from the church and also owned the property directly across the street, occupied by one of the oldest houses still standing in the community. Mrs. Bolinger agreed to exchange that property for the old parsonage, along with making a substantial contribution to apply to the cost of a new parsonage structure. The old house there was torn down and on May 12, 1957, the new location was dedicated, and ground was broken for a new parsonage. A few years ago, of course, the church sold that house to Marc and Jill Mohr. Fred Rogers, the grandfather of Jon Rogers who attended here until his move to Texas, was chairman of the building committee. The beautiful brick edifice was erected and dedicated with a feeling of joy and pride. A brochure from that time notes that the building of this new parsonage represented the combined effort of the 640 members of the Pendleton Methodist Church and was "indeed an outstanding achievement." The house was started under the pastorate of Rev. L. Wayne Eller, but the first minister to occupy it was Rev. Harold Thrasher, who moved into the new home on August 15, 1957. Besides Mr. Fred Rogers, other members of the building committee were Joy Williams-Henderson, Mrs. 0. W. Oldham, Carson House, Bill Smith, Jane Rider-Goff, Delbert Johnson, and Everett Foust. Jim Craig and Everett Foust were in charge of plans and blueprints, and the general contractor was Robert E. DeShong. The church was redecorated, the minister suitably housed, and the next thing to occupy the energy of this congregation was additional space.
Chapter XII: Growth Calls for an Educational Wing
An earlier history of this church states that in the late 1950's and early 1960's a steady increase of church attendance and membership was noted; in short, the "church was bursting at the seams." The early 1823 founders of this congregation provided an apt description of themselves and of our ongoing tradition when they called themselves the Pendleton "Society" of Methodists. All along, our growth or lack thereof, our emphasis and responses have been shaped by the society which surrounds us. Thus, in the 1950-60 period we saw the results of the birth of the baby boomer generation. Of course, we were bursting at the seams!
Following the correct procedures of District and trustee approval, consultation with architects, and discussion within the congregation, the congregation agreed to the erection of a new educational unit. Ground was broken on July 8, 1962, while we were pastored by Rev. Harold Thrasher. Our motto at this time was taken from Nehemiah 2:18, "Let us rise up and build." The parish house purchased in 1955 was torn down on the lot just east of the church and the building began. An intensive campaign for building-fund pledges was held, and within a short time the goal of $100,000 was met. Actual construction began and continued throughout the early winter. On February 24, 1963, the first service was held in the new educational unit. The unit was a beautiful, modern, and practical addition containing eleven classrooms and a chapel. Generous gifts were contributed toward the furnishing of the chapel which included stained glass windows in a modern design, light oak child-sized pews, altar, and lecterns, and even kneelers. If you were around then, do you remember the lavender-colored carpeting? The room was to be used for Junior Church and for smaller weddings and celebrations. Again, building and funding this addition were accomplished through diligent work and cooperation by the entire church membership and the kindness of friends.
The Building Committee for this educational unit included Chairman Delbert Johnson, Tom Bowden, Joy Henderson, Roy Land, Horace Tunes, Gordon Ritz, Frank Anderson, Howard Simmerman, Ruth Manifold and Bill and Phyllis Humble. While the unit had been in use for twenty months, it was not actually dedicated until October 24, 1965. Rev. Jim Willyard was pastor at this time, and the service was conducted by District Superintendent, Rev. John Sayre. Bob Post was Chairman of the Board of Trustees. The bulletin for this service includes the note: "All the pleasures of witnessing the growth of a church do not come from enlarging an edifice or acquiring modern facilities, as great as they are. Greater still is the glory of the spiritual life of its people, without which the church cannot succeed. The activities and interest of the young people in the Pendleton church has been outstanding in Muncie District, and the future of the church looks strong and steady."
We cannot leave the period when Rev. Thrasher pastored here from 1957-1964 without relating the "bat story." As several of us remember the evening, it was the conclusion of a Bible School program. Children and teachers were joined by hands in a prayer circle, and Rev. Thrasher was leading the group very seriously in prayer. Suddenly, from out of the old belfry flew one of our resident bats, which circled overhead to titters and shrieks. The preacher scolded us all for not being intent enough on prayer to be oblivious to the bat, the men chased the bat to the basement with brooms, and no one seems to remember what the women who were in the basement preparing refreshments did do, but it was certainly an event many of us will never forget!
Chapter XIII: Pastor’s Families and a New Edifice
When Rev. James Willyard came here with his family of four children in 1964, the congregation was very glad they had built the new parsonage. If there were regrets, it was only that we had not had the new home in place when Rev. Wayne Eller, his wife Elfleda, and his four children had pastored with us. The Ellers were very much a family unit. We remember Mrs. Eller had a beautiful soprano voice; the family enjoyed doing things together. Rev. Eller apparently suffered from severe migraine headaches. It is believed that on at least one occasion, Rev. Horner from the Christian Church came to our service to fill in for him because his headache was so bad.
We mentioned Rev. Thrasher and the "bat story." We should also note some of our number remember his sermons as being excellent. He was a very serious and forceful man, and his wife was quite shy. Again, Jim and Lorraine Willyard and their children were family oriented. One of the boys had some difficulty paying attention during his dad's sermons, so Rev. Willyard assigned him the task of taking notes on the sermon each week. Lorraine was a wonderful cook. Whenever anyone bakes one of those large delicious chocolate sheet cakes or hot rolls, we are reminded of Mrs. Willyard. Some of our members who were teenagers at the time remember Youth Fellowship meetings when the group would be engaged in a serious and thorny discussion. Finally, someone would turn to the preacher and say, "Rev., shed some light on this, will you?" And Rev. Willyard, who would have been sitting quietly listening to the talking, would indeed "shed some light" in just a few quiet, but well-chosen words.
As time went by, it became apparent that this congregation needed a larger edifice. There seemed little doubt that we would endeavor to erect a completely new church building. Late in 1966 at a congregational meeting, a vote was taken, and a motion carried to proceed with a new building. On February 13, 1967, there was a service of remembering, the old corner stone was opened, and the contents reviewed. The last service in the old church was held on February 19, 1967, in a touching and inspiring manner. From that date on, for one full year, church services were held in the Pendleton High School auditorium. Early in March 1967, a demolition crew moved in and swiftly razed the old building. In April, ground was broken for a new church. Of course, considerable planning had already taken place. Jim Schug served as chairman of the Finance Committee and Crusade chairman; in a letter dated March 1966, the emphasis is on increased giving toward the Building Fund. Pastor Willyard states in a brochure entitled "Dream or Reality, It's in Our hands" that "If we are to continue to render the kind of service which is worthy of our Lord and of our heritage, we must rebuild." This same brochure shows the plans for the new sanctuary and a service wing consisting of a parlor and offices. This new facility was to be connected to the Educational wing constructed in 1962-63. The challenge goal was to raise $275,000 for construction of the Sanctuary and Service Wing. The indebtedness for land, parsonage, and Educational Unit had already been liquidated. The Building Committee included Delbert Johnson as Chairman, and Jim Craig, Frank DeWitt, Joy Henderson, Bill and Phyllis Humble, Roy Land, Jane Rider-Goff, Harriet Sibera, Laura May Stephenson, and Mr. and Mrs. Fred Wolf. The Architect was lvo Hemmert of Hartford City, and general contractors were Barnhart and Kasdorf Construction Co. of Pendleton.
February 25, 1968, just one year from the date of the last service in the old church, the first service was held in the new one, a fantastic evidence of faith, work, and skill. Our pastor, Rev. James Willyard, became known as "the church builder."
Chapter XIV: The 60’s Through the 90’s
Rev. James Willyard served this church from 1964 until 1971. He was succeeded by Dr. Marvin Cook. In 1973, the church celebrated its 150thAnniversary with a costumed pageant largely researched and written by Dr. Cook assisted by Nancy Wynant. It was entitled "Forward With Faith." Costuming was little problem since the Town of Pendleton had celebrated its 150th year in 1970, and old-fashioned dresses and suits were in abundance. A community-wide event which had involved many of Pendleton First's church family since the early 1950's was the Annual Easter Pageant. 1974 seems to have been the last of these productions. The youth fellowship was still quite active at this time with a large number of high school students attending Epworth Forest Institute each summer. During Cook's tenure, we purchased an old school bus, painted it green, and expected Mike Cook to keep it running. It ran off and on, mostly off, transporting youth to events until 1980.
Rev. Edwin McClure was appointed here in 1974 and served until 1980. One of his woodcarvings is on display at the Pendleton Historical Museum and depicts the early mill and falls. His wife Dottie was an excellent flautist. While Rev. McClure was here, we agreed to a cooperative venture with Pendleton's Emmanuel U. M. Church, sharing the cost of a student pastor who would serve their church while assisting at ours, with our pastor acting as mentor. During this time, we met Dave Murray, David McBride, Duane Hicks, Dennis Hensley, and David Overman. In September 1976, nearly the entire congregation was involved in assisting with a large fund-raiser. We staffed a food tent at a Farm Progress Show near Shelbyville, raising around $14,000 which was used for debt reduction over a period of the next few years. We remember the countless hours spent in preparation for this event by Mr. and Mrs. Frank Houser. Another cooperative venture during this period was our housing of the South Madison schools kindergarten classes from1974-79 because the schools lacked classroom space. From 1980-84, Rev. Earl Sharp served as our pastor. It is believed that our Food Pantry was established around 1980, and this ministry is still continuing. There was some consideration of re-purchasing the "green house" south of the church for expansion at this time, but a congregational vote was negative. Earlier we had purchased Lucy Bailey's home east of the church for eventual expansion of parking space. Rev. Sharp's wife Veral touched many lives through her work with the United Methodist Women.
Sharp was succeeded by Rev. Dan Stone who was here from 1984-90. During this time, we were encouraged by a new emphasis on camping programs for all ages and groups, and several from the church became interested in camp counseling. Rev. Stone's wife Ruth Ellen provided special leadership in missions ministry, and Barbara Hewitt continued this thrust. The Friendly Flock Pre-school was initiated in 1989 under the direction of Robin Henderson. Another active member of the congregation was Dr. Don Yeoman who was very interested in what members of the church family believed this church should be doing and how these goals might be accomplished. Dr. Yeoman chaired a committee which surveyed members and held many discussion meetings. Several of the goals expressed in this committee's vision statement became a reality in the early 1990's, with the formation of the "Joel" committee, restructuring of the sanctuary, formation of additional Sunday School rooms in already existing space, and enlargement of the parking lot. Along with other Methodist churches around the globe, we celebrated 1984 as the 200th Anniversary of Methodism. A 52-week series of Methodist "Minutes" acquainted us with our Methodist heritage, 200 years of existence as a church influenced by John and Charles Wesley where heart and mind went out to common people not only in England and America, but across the globe. In October 1984, we enjoyed a meal together in Fellowship Hall, followed by a pageant entitled "Proclaiming the Faith" loosely based on our 1973 "Forward With Faith," but going back to the formation of the church in the United States in 1784, and continuing through history to activities of the local church in 1984.
Chapter XV: The 1990’s to 2018
A member of this church, Mrs. Pam Montgomery, felt called by God to enter the diaconal ministry of the United Methodist Church in January 1989. She was consecrated in June 1990, and served here in the area of evangelism, providing a welcoming ministry, visitation, and Bible Study first under the direction of Rev. Dan Stone, and then with Pastor Bud Probasco who received appointment here also in June 1990. Pam left in June 1992, to serve at St. Mark's of Carmel where she remains. She was ordained a deacon in full connection in June 1997. Pastor Bud found a strong sentiment here for development of youth and children's ministry; and accordingly, Randy Miller and then Sam Carlton came to serve as assistant ministers. Rev. Carlton's gift was in visitation and ministry to senior citizens. Tammy Mills came to us in 1994, and in addition to trying out a series of Saturday night services, began working with senior and junior high youth and developing children's programs.
In a series of real estate moves, we purchased the famous "green house" for its location, redecorated and rented it for a time, then sold the building to be torn down, but retained the lot and created the gravel parking lot south of the church. We also rented the parsonage, offering our pastor a housing allowance in its stead, and sold this home in 1993. The Wildman house directly east of the church was purchased, again for the space it offered, rented and then sold in 1996 since use of the house or its lot did not prove feasible. A playground for Friendly Flock and Sunday School children was created at the rear of this property and then moved to the gravel parking lot when the home sold. Meanwhile the paved parking lot was greatly enlarged to accommodate and encourage increased attendance.
The "Joel" committee as an outgrowth of the previous vision-setting group was formed and goals were set with prayerful consideration. Additional Sunday School classrooms were formed, and the front of the Sanctuary was remodeled to allow for a better vision line during presentations such as choir cantatas, children’s programs, liturgical dance, and dramatic skits. The JOY, or Just Older Youth, group was formed and provided enjoyable and interesting programs and field trips for our senior citizens. For a time, adults were given the opportunity for classes and programs at the same time as children's activities on Wednesday evenings.
Several of our members were involved in work teams which went to assist Don Nelson at Station KJNP (King Jesus North Pole) in Alaska in 1991 and 1993, and others served on a team assisting the missionary pastor at the Blackfeet Indian reservation in Browning, Montana in 1992. In 1994, a group went to Georgia to help flood victims. Another outreach involving many of our church family was the community-wide effort to build a home for a Pendleton family through Habitat for Humanity. Dedication was in 1993, but the effort consumed many months. In all of these endeavors and others, the church provided financial, moral, and prayerful support. We can't begin to count the carwashes, spaghetti suppers, Marsh suppers, cookbooks and other fund raisers which made these ministries possible. Another historical pageant during regular Sunday morning worship, "Affirming the Faith" celebrated our heritage in 1994.
With the leaving of Pastor Probasco in late summer 1995, Pastor Rick Taylor was appointed to Pendleton First. As a "teacher-preacher," he invited congregants to participate in a series of lessons entitled "Six Hats", encouraging people to seek new ways to think and grow spiritually. The theme of "Ask, Seek, Knock" taken from Matthew 7:7-8, was developed for the purpose of creating Christian disciples. Computers were updated, and the office area has been remodeled. The policy offering two Sunday morning worship services, begun about 1991, was discontinued in November 1997, with the hope that we might better foster friendly fellowship among the entire church family.
Two new outreach ministries were organized by our Missions work area. Several from our church family took training through the Madison County Literacy Coalition and tutored adult learners. Also working with the ecumenical group "Changing People Through Change" we had people assisting with distribution of fresh produce both locally and to area food and homeless agencies. For several years, Beth Baker provided leadership in the community-wide "National Day of Prayer."
We need to mention the long-time service of Iris Parker as membership secretary, and of Shirley Farr as organist, and of the service of a series of talented pianists who have added to our worship services with the grand piano added to the sanctuary in the early 90's. Nor have we mentioned the work of choir director Lamonte Kuskye, and before him Sam McKean, who provided leadership for a Chancel Choir made up of dedicated and talented singers. The Handbell Choir, dating from 1994, was led by Mary Beth Clarke until 1997. It is now directed by Paula Simmons.
The list goes on; the beat goes on; oh, would God that the vision of the 1823 Pendleton Society of Methodists may go on that this church may be a beacon of God's love and light in this community far into the future. "Thy will be done, thy kingdom come, on earth as it is in heaven." We conclude our chronicle of 175 years with a prayer written by the late Mary Ahrens for our 150th celebration in 1973.
"As we come to this moment of time in the life of our Church, with one accord we lift our hearts and hands in praise and gratitude to Thee, dear Father, for the care we have accepted from you during the years. For the strength and abilities with which you have endowed us, we give thanks. For the physical and spiritual endurance throughout these years, we give thanks. And as we come to this NOW period of our existence, there are still the willing hands and thoughtful minds reaching up and out to grasp the faithful hands of the past. We are continually supported by Thy loving arms. Through You, we find our way. There is no other way but Thine. Teach us, the young, the old, the humble, the timid, the impetuous, the way of Thy patience. And we beseech Thee, dear Lord to fill us to overflowing with the view and sparkle of Thy love of life. Teach us that to retreat is pure defeat. Let us have the faith of the blind man who declared, One thing now, once I was blind-NOW I see. Help us to keep our vision clear to see the needs around us so Thy Kingdom will grow and thrive in our church, the community and the world. Humbly and gladly we place our hands in Thine. Lead us! In Thy name we pray, Amen."
Chapter XVI: Update 2018
It’s Summer, 2018, and our goal is to update the history of the oldest church organization in Madison County from an earlier history covering the years of our original little group of Methodists who met in one another’s log cabins in 1823 until our 175th anniversary in 1998. Before we move into more recent times, however, we believe from reading our earlier history that we need to add some information regarding the 1968 sanctuary where we now continue to worship.
- The cross is a symbol that is repeated many times throughout the building, on all the entrances leading into the Sanctuary, on the pew ends and is suspended over the chancel area. The wreath on the large suspended cross symbolizes the crown of thorns. The spotlights are so arranged that two shadow crosses appear on the grill work, reminding us of the three crosses of Calvary.
- The lighting fixtures are hung in clusters of three and symbolize the Trinity.
- The window symbols: (Begin at the back of the west wall.)
- The Anchor- A symbol of hope. The book of Hebrews describes hope as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul.
- The Burning Bush-A reminder that God spoke to Moses in the midst of the burning bush.
- The Three Fish-an ancient symbol of Christianity which was used as a secret sign of identity for Christians. The Greek word for "fish" –Ichthus-is formed by taking the first letter of each word in the phrase Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior.
- The Wheat and Grapes-Symbolize the Bread and Wine of Communion.
- The Descending Dove-A symbol of the Holy Spirit. It is recorded in all four Gospels that at Jesus’ baptism, the Holy Spirit descended in the form of a dove.
- Our church bell in front of the church building dates from 1878.
Rev. Bud Probasco became our pastor in 1990. He was noted for having befriended the youth, Ryan White, during the HIV/Aids controversy and conducted the funeral service for the boy. Probasco and his family wished to build their own home, and the church sold the State Street parsonage. When Rick Taylor arrived in 1995, we had no parsonage for he and his family and provided volunteer and rented accommodations for them until they, too, decided to build a home of their own. In 1999 we purchased a home in Pendle Hill from Jack and Chris Wilson, and that became the official parsonage beginning with the Wilbur family in 1999 and remains so today.
Taylor gave us good guidance during a time of financial healing and was noted for the though-provoking sermons.
Pastor Tim Wilbur replaced Taylor in 1999 and remained here until taking early retirement in 2007. He was noted for a beautiful singing voice and lovely baby baptisms.
Assisting him from 2000 to 2001 was M. D. Stultz, who used puppets effectively to illustrate sermons and children’s messages. Also in 2000, Amber Karkosky-Litten came in as Youth Director. Her activities, however, soon surpassed working only with youth. She also promoted fellowship among the women. Around these same years, Susan Sporinsky directed the JOY-Just Older Youth-and encouraged these folks in faith and fellowship which continues to this day with their annual Christmas party.
Methodism was undergoing several changes during this period: the North and South Conferences were merged into one conference, and some smaller churches were closed due to dwindling attendance and finances. Among these was the Ingalls United Methodist Church. In the meantime, Jesse Flood had come to the Pendleton Church to assist with ministry. The Conference asked the Pendleton Church to re-open the Ingalls Church as a missional church, and we agreed to this outreach. Flood was assigned to serve as Campus Pastor. The Ingalls Church was formed in 1893 and the present facility built in 1921.
Our Food Pantry has continued over several years in different guises and different places, sometimes in cooperation with other churches. Our current operation began with Pastor Wilbur asking the Marsh grocery (now Needler’s) at Pendleton for day-old bread. Jesse Flood, who had been appointed Campus Pastor at the revitalized Ingalls Church, began going house to house in Ingalls with loaves of bread and informing the community that the Church was reopening. The Pantry began with 2 dozen loaves of bread and 3 dozen items of non-perishables. The Green Township Trustee, Greg Valentine, became involved early on and now offers a satellite Trustee’s office in the basement of Ingalls Church. He along with Jeanne and Steve Custer, manage the Pantry. The pantry is now named South Madison Food Pantry. The only requirement for patrons to participate is that they reside within the South Madison School District. At one time, six churches contributed food and money to the pantry, but now there are three along with Needler’s Supermarkets, Panera Bread, Sonshine Donuts, the Department of Corrections, Maple Ridge Elementary School, and other groups and classes from the schools. Boy Scouts, Pendleton Library, and the Pendleton Post Office have helped with special food drives. A few years ago, we affiliated with Second Harvest which makes possible our donations from Marsh which became Needler’s stores. In 2016 we averaged serving 47 families per week. In 2017 we averaged 40 families. On any given Saturday, anywhere from 20 to 50 families participate.
In addition to the Pantry, the Pendleton Community Library under its director, Lynn Hobbs, received a grant from South Madison Foundation for purchasing a vehicle to be used as "Read and Feed" mobile. Later a tow vehicle was received from Kroger Grocery. Every Thursday afternoon, our member Green Township Trustee Valentine and a staff person from the library make stops at Markleville, Pendleton, and Ingalls with food and books available.
A Praise Band was formed at the Pendleton campus during this period with Ryan Coyle as leader, and two services were undertaken with the Praise Band providing music at 11:00, Ingalls Service at 10:30, and a traditional service in Pendleton at 9:00.
In 2005, the major project of this period was undertaken with the addition of our beautiful Atrium on the south side of the building and a general remodeling of the first floor of the educational wing into offices, Sunday School rooms and restrooms. The Atrium included Gathering Grounds on the west side and a parlor area, complete with fireplace, on the east end. A double staircase led up from the Atrium to the Narthex leading into the Sanctuary, and an elevator was added providing access from the first floor to the basement Fellowship Hall and also to the second floor Sanctuary. Meanwhile, the parking facilities were enlarged and the back half of the residence east of the church purchased and equipped with playground equipment.
Originally, the planned renovation titled "A Faith Odyssey 2001" did not include the Atrium. But as ideas and possibilities unfolded, the large new room called the Atrium became part of the plan. Dell Rogers of the Rogers Group, Inc. from Dallas, Texas helped us plan for the financial aspect of the plan. The McKnight Development Corporation from Ohio provided architectural design and preformed the construction. Total cost for the endeavor was $1,465,000.00. Our building committee included, Murray Hammond, Jack Wilson, Esther Haner, Jim Wood, Dennis Lusk, John Sorlie, Larry Armstrong, Natalie Schug, Jeanne Custer and Ken Tullis. Steve Schug, Lay Leader, became Faith Odyssey Chair, and Ken Tullis headed the Building Committee. Groundbreaking was celebrated September 26, 2004 and Dedication on September 11, 2005.
With the early retirement of Wilbur in 2007, Dan Motto, a retired pastor and District Superintendent, with a great deal of experience and compassion, was sent to help our church at a time of transition. Motto provided enthusiasm and encouragement.
Steve Austin replaced Motto and served from 2008-2011. Discussion of a Stephen Ministry had begun earlier, but in 2008 the administrative council approved establishing a board to implement the formation of such a ministry. Pastor Steve, Dick Smith, and Beckie Kahl took leadership training, a vision statement was developed, and promotion to the congregation began. The first class was held in the fall of 2008 and continuing education and supervision began. The second class was recruited in 2009 and trained in 2010. Tammy McKean, Jeanne Custer, and Dave Ashmore were then trained as Stephen leaders, and Pastor Doug Walker joined the others when he arrived in 2011. At this point five classes have been held and 33 Stephen Ministers trained. The purpose of the ministry is to provide caring relationships offering one- on- one confidential care for individuals who are experiencing stressful situations in their lives. Pastor Steve was noted for his comfort to the bereaved and called to serve the ill and injured; and, as such was very instrumental in helping initiate the Stephen Ministry. As an aside, Pastor Steve was Leona Anderson’s third cousin on her dad’s side of the family. Sherry Doudt and Jason Resler are the current leaders of the Stephen Ministry.
While Austin was here a group of mission-minded members initiated a drive to build a deep-water well in a needed area in Sierra Leone. One of our students, Matt Finnigan, went with a group from Pendleton Christian Church through Horizons International to Zambia in January 2012. Several monthly family connections were held for a period of time seeking to better acquaint members with one another on a multi-generational basis. In the summer of 2018, Matt Finnegan is working with 100 other college students to minister to other Chicagoan collegians.
Pastor Doug Walker was assigned here in 2011 and had been the disaster response coordinator for the South Conference of the church. Walker initiated and has worked with members on several mission work trips beginning with rebuilding a house destroyed by a tornado in Henryville in June 2012. Those who went were Jerry Farr, Ken Tullis, Jack & Susan Sporinsky, Steve & Jeanne Custer, Dick Smith, Dennis Lusk, Rodger McKinney, Pastor Doug & Linda Walker. They went back to Henryville in March 2013 to continue rebuilding. Those that went were Nancy Ashmore, Jordan La Plante, Dick Smith, Dennis Lusk, Ken Tullis, Matt Finnegan, Rex Mercer, Jerry Farr, Jeanne Custer, Beckie Kahl, and pastor Doug. Jerry Farr, Jason LaPlante, Rex Mercer, Ken Tullis, and pastor Doug traveled to and worked in New Jersey following Hurricane Sandy in October 2013. Another group prepared materials and supplies to be sent to missions from the Midwest Distribution Center in Illinois in November 2013. The group of Jerry Farr, Ken Tullis, Rex Mercer, and Pastor Doug re-sided a house in Washington, Indiana following a tornado in October 2014. A more local endeavor in November 2015 found them helping to build a new home in Anderson through Habitat for Humanity, and in October 2016, another group of Mike Crosley, Ken Tullis, and Pastor Doug assisted in South Bend after flooding.
Several of our members were involved in outreach programs the summer of 2017. Robyn Axel-Adams, Mary Cloud, Sunni Manges, and Becky Wiley participated in a Kairos weekend at the Women’s Prison in Indianapolis. Susan Barrett, Dustin Ritz, Maddie Barrett, Grant Skinner, Olivia Glover, and Sophie Cline went on a mission to the Dominican Republic. Sherri Doudt accompanied a group from Trinity United Methodist in Lapel with Barry and Diane Humble to Uganda. This mission is the location where we funded a pig barn a few years ago. Darin and Bryce Axel-Adams were on mission to McCurdy School in New Mexico.
In January 2018 Ken Tullis, Rex Mercer, Mike Crosley, and Pastor Doug went to Baton Rouge for a week to help with the flooding victims of August 2016 where over 100,000 homes were affected. They tiled a kitchen and worked on the United Methodist dormitory for other volunteers could stay.
Pastor Doug’s services utilize a PowerPoint presentation weekly displayed on two large screens recently placed on the north wall of the sanctuary. Once members realized they could visualize the sermon content as well as hear it, this process has become very well received. New technology also makes it possible to see the Friendly Flock children or Children’s Message time wherever one is seated in the sanctuary.
Technology has made possible Wi-Fi, online email, PayPal, hearing assisted devices, and large-type bulletins. Several new groups have begun during these last six years. In 1952 United Methodist Men was chartered at Pendleton First but after a few years disbanded. Around 2007 Bob and Jessie Darrah moved to Pendleton area from Fortville where he had been active with the Fortville United Methodist Church. At Fortville an active United Methodist Men group had been successful in fund-raising. Bob sensed that this was possible also at Pendleton Church and there was certainly a need, given our indebtedness from adding on the Atrium and other remodeling. He talked with other men about this, and the first UMM meeting was held in February 2009. UMM has subsequently raised thousands of dollars to apply to our mortgage and also purchased some needed supplies. They hosted community fish fries, chicken noodle dinners, and a State Road 38 Men’s Garage Sale in the church parking lot. They sold refreshments at community festivals, sponsored Mother’s Day Banquet and Valentine’s Day Celebration, sponsored "Sock-It-Away" and other all-congregation projects and held an annual golf tourney honoring Jim Stegemiller who was active in UMM and finance before his untimely passing. All have been undertaken by these men in a whirlwind of activity. In addition, Ken Tullis reported that a small group of the men called "Can I Help You" had completed 100 individual service projects in 2016.
New Bible study groups have also been initiated. A group of women interested in strengthening their relationship with God began a few years ago and have now adopted the name WOW-Women of the Word facilitated by Karen Stegemiller and Beckie Kahl. They have selected their own studies and found during the curriculum study and attendant sermons from I Believe, The Call, and The Story that accompany videos are a great assistance. They meet weekly from August through May on Tuesday mornings at the church and frequently lunch together following the meeting. A men’s Bible Study Group also meets on Tuesday morning with Dick Smith as the facilitator. The latest group is young women who have taken the name "Reflect" and meet every other Tuesday evening at the church choosing their desired study materials. These ladies have initiated Project Makeover with the goal of upgrading the appearance of many of our rooms. Susan Barrett organized a bible study group which meets at 8:30 on Thursday mornings.
An ongoing group of longstanding is U.M.W. - United Methodist Women an outgrowth of the earlier ladies aid and women’s foreign mission societies. The present group of U.M.W. has been chaired by Linda Cook for 16 years. They hold an annual pancake breakfast and cookie walk to raise pledged funds for special U.M. mission projects.
Other groups still working at ministry include the handbell choir, Friendly Flock, and Kids’ Hope. The handbell choir originally formed in 1994 and after continuing with several faithful directors has been led by Paula Simmons for the last 5 years. Friendly Flock was begun by Robin Henderson in 1989 and offers early childhood education in a Christian atmosphere to 3-year olds and a pre-kindergarten curriculum to 4 and 5-year olds. During the 2016-2017 school year, 97 students were served. Teachers that year were Jennifer Mabrey, Britney Olson, Allyson Moore, and assistants included Shelly O’Bryant, Anna Veach, and Michelle Heineman. Kids’ Hope was organized by Claudia Wilbur during the Wilbur’s time here. It provides mentoring of students at East Elementary who are named by their teachers to receive special time each week from one of our members through visiting, helping with homework, doing crafts or playing a game. Ten of our members participated in this ministry during the 2016-17 school year under the direction of Susan Barrett, and seven members worked with students in 2017-2018. In 2011 the Conference made possible a plan called Fruitful Congregation Journey, and we agreed to consider this program. There followed Town Hall type meetings, mystery worshippers, and interviews conducted by representatives of the conference. They found our strengths to be a caring and friendly atmosphere, music, commitment and resilience of laity, attractive facilities and enthusiasm of the staff. Their suggested prescriptions toward our being a fruitful congregation were to have a clear vision, children’s and youth ministry, hospitality, staff alignment and leadership development, and a disciple pathway. The congregation concurred with these suggestions and implementation is a work in progress. Conference personnel continued with us for a subsequent year in consultation. Our bylaws were amended on October 18, 2012 to create a single church council to be accountable and set a vision and policy. The church council, now reduced in number, has minutes printed each month in our newsletter The Lighthouse. Council members serve shorter terms with the goal of having time to serve in other forms of ministry rather than just sitting in meetings. The church council now is focused on the ministry of the church and how we make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world by Connecting to people, while they Grow, Serve, and Commit to Christ. We returned to one service to better assimilate the congregation, and staff was prepared to facilitate these specific goals.
The staff at this time includes Donna Wood as Administrator since 1999, Susan Barrett as Director of Growth and children’s programs since 1998. Tammy McKean was hired as Guest Services as in June 2006 and was later assigned as our Media Specialist and now is Campus Pastor at Ingalls. Dustin Ritz was hired as Director of Youth and Connect as of 2013. Karen Finnigan is Health and Wellness Director. In this regard we continue to host Blood Drives and classes on diabetes care. Ken and Susan Cobb are custodians. Lamonte Kuskye, Music Director, was honored by past and present choir members for 25 years of service about 3 years ago. Ryan Coyle directs the Praise Team. Reginald Rogers is our pianist and Shirley Farr was recognized in the summer of 2017 for 60 years as organist. Paula Simmons directs the Handbell Choir and Sandy Gernand directs the nursery.
As of 2016 we have 6 Lay Speakers in the congregation, trained by the conference to preach and do ministry. In addition, member Robyn Axel-Adams is an ordained U.M. pastor who has service mainly in chaplaincy. David Ashmore and Bob Case are Licensed Local Pastors vetted and trained by the conference through a specified course of study. Bob serves a nearby U.M. church, and David has been Campus Pastor at our Ingalls Church, until retiring after five years there and was replaced by Tammy McKean, Certified Lay Speaker, who has been on our staff for twelve years, most recently as media specialist.
Mary Cloud has become a Certified Candidate in the United Methodist church, and will be attending Licensed to Preach School in the summer of 2018. Her hope, as well as the church, is to become a Licensed Local Pastor and serve Ingalls Church until she finishes seminary and is ordained a Deacon. Her end goal is to become a Chaplain for a hospital or hospice service.
In 2017, we started to study what it means to become a Missional Church. According to the book, Shaped by God's Heart, which all Indiana United Methodist church leaders are being encouraged to study, a "missional church... [is] a reproducing community of authentic disciples, being equipped as missionaries sent by God, to live and proclaim His Kingdom in their world." (Minatrea, M. (2010). Shaped By God's Heart: The Passion and Practices of Missional Churches, Jossey-Bass Leadership Network Series). Our church is considering our Ingalls Campus and that community to be our mission field. We are still discerning how to do that.
Several Pendleton Methodist members have entered Methodist ministry. Wilbur Fisk Walker served for 30 years as a missionary to China. Others were John McCarty, W. McCarty, M.A. Teague, and William Boston. Later members entering ministry included Orrin Manifold, David Waggoner, Charles Reichenbach, Brenda Wills, and the latest, Nikki Brown- Rice. Lay Pastors have included Barry Humble, Bob Case, and Dave Ashmore. Assistants Stultz, Mills were ordained UM after they left us. Karkosky-Litten was ordained by the Nazarene Church and transfered to UM later.
We are now known as First United Methodist Church Ministries, Inc., and we strive to adhere to the vision to Connect, Grow, Commit, and Serve in order to make Disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. In 2023 our congregation will observe 200 years of worship and service to God in Pendleton. May we continue to "Trust and Obey" our Savior "wherever we can, whenever we can, and however we can."
Chronological Record of Pastors
1823-1829 Pendleton Society was not part of a District
1829 Fall Creek Circuit organized. Asa Beck, Rider-Pastor
1830 William Evans
1831 Nathan Fairchild
1832 Isaac Ellsbury
1833 Ancil Beach
1834 S. W. Hunter
1835 Hiram Griggs
1836 Phillip May
1837 F.M. Richmond
1838 D. F. Straight
1839 J.S. Donaldson
1840 J.W. Sullivan
1841 J.S. Donaldson
1842 J. Miller
1843 J.C. Crouch
1844 James Scott
1845 John Leach
1846 John Leach and J.W. Ball
1847-1848 J.B. Mershom
1849-1850 J.W. Smith
1851 J.C. White
1852 Samuel Lamb
1853 Nelson Gillam
1854 Nelson Gillam
1855 L.W. Monson
1856-1857 J.C. Medsker
1858 V.M. Beamer
1859-1860 N.H. Phillips
1861-1862 C.P. Wright
1863 Charles Martindale
1864 M.P. Armstrong
1865 R.D. Spellman
1866-1867 J.D. Iddings
1868 S.N. Campbell
1869 E.M. Baker
1870-1871 E.S. Preston
1872 M.A. Teague
1873 E.F. Hasty
1874 C.G. Hudson
1875 John Harrison
1876-1877 R. Tobey
1878-1879 R.J. Parrett
1880-1881 B.R. Brewington
1882 C. King
1883-1885 P.J. Albright
1886 J.S. McCarty
1887-1888 J.H. Jackson
1888-1889 A.S. Rogers
1891 A. Greenman
1892-1893 J.I. McCoy
1894-1898 E.F. Hasty
1899-1901 J.C. Dorwin
1902-1903 H.S. Smith
1904-1906 T.F. Frech
1907-1909 W.A. Griest
1910-1912 E.E. Trippeer
1913-1915 J.E. Williams
1916 C.B. Dougherty
1917-1918 J.A. Patterson
1919-1927 J.O. Powell
1928-1930 D.C. Beatty
1931-1932 J.H. Palmer
1933-1936 J.H. Seelig
1937-1941 R.H. Wehrly
1942-1943 M.C. Wright
1944-1946 C.C. Wischmeier
1947-1956 L. Wayne Eller
1957-1964 H.M. Thrasher
1964-1971 James Willyard
1971-1974 M.W. Cook
1975-1980 E.L. McClure
1980-1984 Earl Sharp
1984-1990 D.R. Stone
1990-1995 R.E. Probasco
1995-1998 Tammy Mills (assistant)
1995-1999 Rick Taylor
1999-2007 T.M. Wilbur
2000-2001 M.D. Stultz (assistant)
2000-2004 Amber Karkowski-Litton (assistant)
2007 Dan Motto
2008-2011 Steve Austin
2011-Present Doug Walker
2012-2017 David Ashmore (assistant)
History of Pendleton M.E. Church, 1923, updated 1956, Myrl Guy New
Church History, Rev. R.H. Wehrly, 1941
History of First Mehtodist Church, Pendleton, Indiana, 1968, Rev. James Willyard
Bi-Centennial Heritage Fair Days, 1976, Maude R. Ward
History of Madison County, Samuel Harden
History of Madison County, John Forkner
"The Massacre at Deer Lick Creek, Madison County, Indiana 1824" (Indian Magazine of History, March 1997) Father Brian M. Doerr
Minutes of North Indiana Conference, 1879, 1880, 1882. 1890, gathered by Dr. M. Cook
Methodist Bicentennial Plan Book, 1984
"Together", Magazine, November 1959
"Forward With Faith" 1973 (Dr. Marvin Cook and Nancy Wynant)
"Proclaiming the Faith'' 1984 (Nancy Wynant)
"Affirming the Faith" 1994 (Bob and Nancy Wynant)
Bi-Centennial Minute July 29, 1984 (Leona Anderson, Bob and Nancy Wynant)