Lebanon, INLebanon
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The History of Central Christian Church

Christians have been called to celebrate since the day of Christ’s resurrection, and the members of Central Christian Church of Lebanon, Indiana, have been celebrating that historic event together for one hundred and seventy-five years.

Because of a fire that destroyed the earliest records, the exact date of the beginning of Central Christian is unclear, but while Samuel Morse was developing the telegraph, baseball was being invented, and Mt. Holyoke established the first women’s college, the roots of the church were formed.

The Reformation Movement of the early nineteenth century influenced preachers like Alexander Campbell in Kentucky. In 1835a small number of men and women in Boone County, many from Kentucky who had heard Campbell’s preaching, began to gather in homes for prayer, hymn singing and instruction. The home of James McCann was often used for this purpose. In 1838, Elder Gilbert T. Harney of Ladoga visited the small group of worshipers and "set the congregation in order and constituted the Christian Church of Lebanon." Still having no building, they met at the Academy which sat where the present church building is sited. At the time, the 1835Charter Members were listed as James McCann, Elizabeth McCann, Thomas Kersey, Martha Kersey, Zachariah Pauley, Elizabeth Pauley, Jane Forsythe, John Shulse, Elizabeth Shulse and Mrs. Dale. Worship for this early congregation was later moved to the old log courthouse. As the congregation grew, it consisted of plain people who lived mostly in the country and attended faithfully. Though most had little formal education, they were God-fearing people of rugged, robust honesty of heart and purpose, and extremely hospitable. Most were poor and no spirit of aristocracy existed. They had no settled resident pastor with every Sunday preaching until after the Civil War. Regardless, they were often ministered to by outstanding men. One of these was James M. Mathews, a fine preacher and editor of the Christian Record. Others were Elders John O’Kane, Elijah Goodwin, Alva Hobbs, Milton B. Hopkins and St. John VanDake, all of whom served at monthly intervals. These were men of acknowledged ability and scholarly attainments and leaders in the religious thought of the time.

As wagon trails opened in Oregon and California, immigrants swarmed to the United States, and Longfellow lured readers to his poetry, the congregation of Central Christian Church built a frame church house on the corner of West Washington and North West Streets. In 1842, this first church building was completed. The severely plain building contained board benches divided into two sides, one for males and one for females and children. All members of the family attended services, including squalling babies. Ministers from 1842-1862were from Northwestern University which is now Butler University. One of these was O.A. Burgess.

The period of 1850-1860 was one of great change for the church. While Lincoln and Douglas debated prior to the Presidential election, Harriet Beecher Stowe shocked the world with her Uncle Tom ‘s Cabin. Slavery and war issues covered the nation. During this tumultuous time, the church began to grow. Now the church sometimes had a pastor but most of the time was ministered to by preaching brethren. Even when regular monthly preachers were not available, the members met at least for the Lord’s Supper. Sometimes an itinerant preacher or an undergraduate from Northwestern University would speak. Hymns were sung from memory or with the preacher (or songleader) lining. (In this practice, a person sings one line of a hymn and then the congregation repeats it.) Christian Hymnbooks contained the words for the hymns but no music. No choir was yet in existence. Often someone in the congregation would just start singing his favorite hymn and the others would join in.

In November of 1855, Brother Alva Hobbs and others led a revival, which was the most extensive and successful ever held until that time. Lasting several weeks, the revival caused people to board their sleighs and sleds to attend. Baptisms were conducted in Prairie Creek. Then war! The 1860’s brought Lincoln’s election and assassination, the Civil War, and the Emancipation Proclamation. Also in this decade, the transcontinental railroad opened and Louisa May Alcott immortalized her life in Little Women.

In 1860 the famed Alexander Campbell visited Lebanon and preached a sermon in the court room of the old courthouse.

From 1861-65 the church struggled through the Civil War which threatened to destroy a nation. Though no mention is made, members of the congregation surely fought and died in this war which pitted North against South in a bloody and horrifying four years. After the conclusion of the war, the congregation outgrew its frame church. In 1866plans began for a second structure.

A brick building soon appeared on the corner of East and Pearl Streets. Elder B.F. Franklin dedicated the building on the fourth Sunday of June 1867. The original cost was $5000.00 but additional changes were made for $2000.00. The congregation now had two preaching services a month.

Preaching of the 1840’s, 50’s and 60’s was largely doctrinal and along controversial lines. Sermons were often busy pointing out weak points in the doctrines and practices of religious neighbors.

National events were significant from 1870-90. Labor unions were founded and Indian treaties cancelled. Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone and Chicago boasted the first skyscraper. Clara Barton founded the American Red Cross and the United States found its first writer with a truly American flavor, Mark Twain.

This same period brought significant events to Central Christian Church. 1880-1891 was a time of rapid growth, which brought about the attainment of a resident full-time pastor. Auxiliary organizations, such as Christian Endeavor, Ladies’ Aid and Auxiliary of the C.W.B.M., appeared. The Christian Women’s Board of Missions began on April 20, 1883. The first Children’s Day offering was sent to missions. Thirteen of the members who joined during this period were still active in 1935, our Centennial year. These members were William Means, Pleasant Shoemaker, Catherine Higgins, Mr. & Mrs. Henry Ashley, Orville Nelson, Birt Trowbridge, Effie Farnsworth, Pritchard Buchanan, Laura Simms, Rose DeVol, William DeVol and Mrs. Charles Mitchell.

In the 1890’s, E.T. Lane led the church. Also during this time the first Ford car was released, railroad strikes occurred, the Spanish-American war was fought, and Emily Dickinson wrote her unique poetry. E.T. Lane’s leadership has been described by previous writers as "perfect." Harmony prevailed and the church experienced constant growth. He received 364 persons into fellowship in five years. In 1895 the church contributed $1.00 per member to missions and church extensions. The founding of the Young People’s Society of Christian Endeavor had also been accomplished under Lane’s guidance. This group succeeded a group called A Band of Hope. The purpose of the Society was the training of the rising generation in the service of the Lord.

At this time, Central Christian Church was considered to have one of the best missionary auxiliaries in the state. These missionary feelings extended to the Emily Flinn Home at Marion for the aged and the Christian Home at Cleveland for children.

W.O. Darnall directed the Sunday School which had an average attendance of 225. The Sunday School Orchestra was formed in this time period.

In 1898 church membership was 575.

In the early 1900’s, U.S. Steel became the first billion dollar corporation, the Wright brothers flew at Kitty Hawk, and Peary explored the North Pole. The United States saw its greatest period of immigration with Europeans, Mexicans and Asians flooding the country.

New explorations and territories opened up for Central Christian. In 1902 the need arose for a new building. This decision was concluded at a mass meeting of the congregation. W.J. DeVol, C.S. Nelson and William Means were appointed to select a new site. This group recommended the Bray House lots on the corner of East Main and Indianapolis Avenue, which were approved and purchased by the Trustees. A building committee was then appointed and consisted of W.J. DeVol, R.S. Kern, Lafayette Wilson, Dr. H.N. Coons, J.W. Jones and W.O. Darnall. On September 5, 1902the church held a Groundbreaking Exercise. The impressive ceremony began at 4:30 with the hymn "All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name." Rev. A.J. Frank then read the 27th and 84th Psalms. "I Love Thy Kingdom, Lord" was followed by prayer led by Rev. Frank. Mrs. Sarah Kenworthy (87), one of the oldest members of the congregation, broke the ground with a spade decorated with red, white, and blue ribbon. A wheelbarrow, adorned in the same manner, carried the dirt away, and was propelled by the youngest members of the congregation, Janice Coombs, Leona Simmons, Florence Harmon and Bessie Stephenson. "Blest Be the Tie That Binds," the Doxology, and a closing prayer ended the festivities. The ribbons were later sold as souvenirs and brought in $4.00.

W.S. Kaufman, an architect of Richmond, Indiana, was contracted to furnish plans for the new church. The contract for construction was given to Messrs. Shetterly and Hagerman of Winchester, Indiana. The design of the new church was gothic. It would consist of a red brick building with stone trimming and a large dome in the center. Its seating capacity would be 550. The back part of the auditorium (or sanctuary) would be Sunday School rooms with the ability to seat 400. By 1903the Ladies’ Aid Society had raised $5000.00 to assist with the building costs. The winter of 1902-03was a severe test on the foundation, and some of it had to be torn out and rebuilt. Nevertheless, on March 26, 1903, Rev. Frank laid the cornerstone. A pipe organ was purchased of W.W. Kimball & Co. of Chicago for $2700.00, and the art glass for the huge stained glass windows to be placed on the Main Street and Indianapolis Avenue sides of the building was purchased from H.M. Hooker Co. for $1000.00. These windows have now been a source of sustained beauty for 107 years.

Dedication of the new building was delayed twice due to the noncompletion of the organ. The date was moved from April 1903 to December 1903 and finally to February 1904. By February, the building, the organ, and the parsonage on the lot west of the church, were all completed. Dedication Sunday, February 21, 1904, was full of wonders. The Sunday School raised $967.42in cash and pledges toward the payment for the building. At the first worship service of the day, the congregation was told that the building would not be dedicated until the entire sum of $13,000.00 to pay off the building had been raised. The money-raising was done by Dr. F.M. Raines of Cincinnati, who was the secretary of the American Foreign Christian Missionary Society. His remarks were humorous and enthusiastic. Three services were conducted that day under the direction of evangelists Brooks and Hackleman. The morning sermon was about the Kingdom, the Kingdom not found in dogma or theology or even the Bible, but found in the human heart. Remarks also emphasized the growth in religion and church which paralleled growth in our country (abolition of slavery and eradication of lotteries). The evening sermon centered on growth and development. Despite the dreary day with rain turning to snow, the morning and afternoon services were full almost to capacity. The night service was totally filled with chairs carried in for extra persons. By the end of the day, the entire $13,000.00 had been raised and the building was dedicated free of debt.

Mrs. Lydia Adair presented the individual communion service used for the first time on Dedication Sunday. Two souvenirs of this momentous occasion were placed on sale -- a handsome spoon and a booklet of the church history.

Sunday School enrollment in 1904was recorded as 688. Prominent members of this time were S.R. Artman, Boone County Court Judge; Clark Lindsay, Boone County Clerk; Lafayette Wilson, Boone County Treasurer; and Ben Simmons, Boone County Auditor.

The State Convention of the Missionary Society of the Churches of Christ in Indiana was held in the new church on May 16, 1904. About 150 delegated attended.

The mock wedding of Tom Thumb to Lillie Putian was held in the sanctuary Friday, September 29, 1905. Even another auspicious event took place at Central Christian during this time. William Jennings Bryant spoke at the church as part of his election campaign.

The 1910’s brought the beginning of prohibition, the opening of the Panama Canal, and World War I. This decade also saw the beginning of Bible School. The first thoughts were for Bible School to be for children of few opportunities and undesirable surroundings, but when the school actually opened, it was non-denominational and open to all children of Lebanon. On June 7, 1914, the first Daily Vacation Bible School opened. The first in the Midwest, it was funded by and held at Central Christian Church. The director was Mrs. Vern Nelson, and Rev. A.L. Ward was pastor at the time. The first year’s enrollment of ninety-seven was almost doubled by an enrollment of 176in 1915. These early Daily Vacation Bible Schools were definitely schools with all-day instruction, including not only Bible study but also moral training and practical skills learning for both boys and girls.

Great changes in lifestyles opened in the 1920’s. F. Scott Fitzgerald’s life and writing typified the Jazz Age, as it came to be called. Talking movies hit the screen, as radio programs bombarded the air waves and reached into living rooms everywhere. And one of the greatest changes of all took place -- women got the vote. Another kind of significant event was taking place at Central Christian. Mr. and Mrs. William L. Powell, a couple who had made many generous financial endowments to the Lebanon community, established a substantial fund to help provide adequate housing and equipment for the Sunday School and the Young People’s Activities of Central Christian Church. In essence, this was the beginning of a building fund for an education building. The Powell Foundation, still in existence today, is an integral part of the church’s finances.

Also in 1920, the first issue of the Herald, a Central Christian Church weekly paper, was published. This became renamed as the Forward in 1929.

The Jazz Age even influenced the choir. Having only eleven members in 1913, the choir numbered thirty voices by 1922.

From about 1904-1924, Central Christian Church was known for its missionary zeal and participation in the Educational and Benevolent enterprises of the Brotherhood.

As the decade closed in 1929, the morning worship service and the church school merged. Prohibition which began in the 20’s ended in the 30’s. The Great Depression shrouded the United States and the New Deal era was ushered in. A New Deal also entered Central Christian, the organization of the Woman’s Council. Though name changes have taken place, this active organization has spent busy years of work and study on local and state levels. Sunday evening union services, also a new institution, were begun in 1931.

Then, at long last, 1935arrived and members and friends joyously celebrated Central Christian Church’s centennial. Plans were first initiated on Wednesday, October 9, 1935. At this time, Mrs. Frank Wade and Mrs. O.C. Higgins presided over an old-fashioned tea following a planting of evergreens and opening of exhibits. This began the ceremonies which would extend from October 9 through the 13. On Thursday evening, Ethel Orear presided over a musical presentation, including visiting musicians, favorite hymns, and "old choirs," a male quartet, an orchestra, and Evan Walker as vocalist. On Friday evening, Mrs. E.C. Gullion directed a pageant depicting the history and possible future of the church. Her husband and a Lebanon attorney, E.C. Gullion, had written the pageant. Even though written and performed in 1935, one portion of the pageant shows Central Christian Church in 1960, as Mr. Gullion tried to visualize the future of the church.

Centennial Sunday was celebration indeed. Important persons involved in the service were Mrs. Goldiene Akers as organist, Mrs. Beulah Coombs as choir director, Harriet Davis and Luther Richman as soloists, Rev. Carl Barnett as minister with Ovid Knowlton and Dr. O.C. Higgins as visiting ministers, and Trustees, Ezba Armstrong, Abe Akers and Ben F. Coombs. A basket dinner at noon followed the special service.

Also in 1935, Pastor Barnett, Mrs. Harriet Bart and Charles Hedge attended the World Convention of the Churches of Christ in Leicester, England, as delegates of Central Christian.

In 1936, Miss Harker was hired to assist the Sunday School classes and women’s groups. This is the first mention of salaried pastor assistance. In 1936 also brought the Loyalty Campaign, an effort made to awaken renewed interest on the part of the members.

Central Christian Church’s involvement in the Boy Scout program begin in 1937. The congregation was required to furnish effective leadership, a place to meet, moral support and cooperation.

Carl Barnett resigned in February 1938 and Richard Moore was accepted as minister in April of the same year.

In 1939 the Girl Scouts were given permission to use the church building as their meeting place. This granted privilege benefited Girl Scouts for many years.

The Depression affected Central Christian Church and Lebanon, as well as the rest of the nation. It caused many church members to be out of work, so many donated their time to cleaning, repairing and landscaping the church.

As if the Depression weren’t catastrophe enough, in the next decade, the United States entered the Second World War, and with the dropping of the atom bomb, the atomic age was ushered in. Richard Wright became one of the first recognized black writers with the publication of his Black Boy. Then Tennessee William’s plays hit the stage, as controversial figure Norman Mailer began his writing career.

The effects of World War II were many. Shortages brought about by the war caused a rethinking of church finances, meetings and obligations. The church sent devotional booklets and personal hand-written letters to Central Christian members in the service in 1942. Then in September 1942, Rev. Moore applied for a commission as a chaplain in the Army. He was called to the chaplaincy in November. The community held a reception for him on November 22before he reported for duty on the 27th. For Christmas 1943, the church again remembered her boys in the service with books sent to eighty-six servicemen.

Rev. Wolff, a pastor extremely interested in missionary work, replaced Rev. Moore. Soon after, personal tragedy struck. On December 1, Pastor Fred Wolff’s twenty year old son was killed in action in Germany. Rev. Wolff received notification of his son’s death on December 18. This tragic event prompted his January 7 sermon entitled, "How Shall a Christian Regard War?" which was then printed in pamphlet form.

In January 1944, E.C. Gullion, a dedicated member and worker of Central Christian Church for many years, retired as Chairman of the Board due to health reasons. Yet at the Congregational Annual Meeting that month, he spoke to the congregation from his home via special telephone equipment furnished by the telephone company. His eloquent and inspiring comments emphasized youth work.

At the conclusion of the war in 1945, Central Christian Church established an Economic Program Committee to help our returning servicemen to readjust to civilian life. The church also joined the Crusade for a Christian World in which each church was to increase membership and monetary giving. Rev. Moore returned from his chaplaincy to attend Central Christian. He was often called upon to give talks concerning the missionary work done during the war. Rev. Wolff was chosen at this time by the Judge of the Court to be probation officer. Church members felt it was a great honor to have their pastor chosen to serve in such a capacity. His main emphasis for the church after the war was "unity." Toward this goal, he instigated the formation of a committee in 1946to research combining Central Christian Church of Lebanon with the First Baptist Church of Lebanon. This work was geared to be completed by 1955but never took place.

Three important events occurred in 1948. In January the church purchased a new organ, a Wurlitzer electric organ with chimes. An organ recital was held February 8, 1948, to dedicate the new organ. The organ chimes were given by Mr. and Mrs. Stanley Hall in memory of Robert Kay Wolff, son of Rev. and Mrs. Fred Wolff. Then in November, Mary N. Tice left her property to the church which led to the formation of the Mary N. Tice Foundation.

The Civil Rights movement and the McCarthy era, as well as the space age, influenced the 1950’s. The United States was also involved in the Korean War.

In 1950, the Women’s Council became Christian Women’s Fellowship, as it is known to this day. The Lord’s Day School was probably begun in the 50’s, although no date is certain. The building fund for an education building, instigated by the Powell Foundation in 1920, was officially started in 1950.

Rev. Wolff resigned in April 1952 to go to the Emily E. Flinn Home in Marion, Indiana, to serve as their resident pastor.

In 1953, Central Christian acquired its first Living Link Missionary, and in 1957 it became the first church in the community with a youth director.

Homebound communion began in 1959, with elders and deacons taking communion to members unable to attend church services the first Sunday of each month.

The next decade from 1960-70 proved to be an active one for church members. As the first manned moon landing was celebrated and the Vietnam conflict was debated, Kurt Vonnegut was writing from his Indianapolis roots, and Central Christian Church added an education building.

In September of 1960, Family Worship services were begun at 9:00 a.m. on Sunday mornings. These were geared toward families with children ages three to twelve.

Mrs. Charles Nelson, Mrs. Maurine Baird and Mrs. Eunice Hopkins went to the World Convention of Churches and then toured Europe in July of the same year.

The church’s Director of Education of 1960 was Mark Wendelborn, a Christian Theological Seminary student from New Zealand. Dr. Paul Andress was the Living Link Missionary serving in Paraguay. Many church programs and activities were strengthened and instigated in the 1960’s. 1960’s groups and activities were adult classes, a young adult class, a junior department, choirs, Bible School, Christian Woman’s Fellowship, Mother/Daughter and Father/Son Banquets, the Lawn Social at the 4-H building, Community Services, Youth Camps, Children’s Day, Vacation Church School and Women’s Day. While many of these have undergone changes, most still exist in some form today. A short program was presented in commemoration of the church’s 125th birthday on November 20, 1960.

The Forward changed from a weekly to a bi-monthly publication in July 1961.

Plans for an education building began to take shape. In January 1962 a church building committee made a recommendation not to build an education building on the Main Street site but for the congregation to move to a new site. This possibility was investigated, and in March of 1962, the board voted to relocate since a new building at that site and repairs to the present church building were so costly. However, on May 6, 1962, the congregation voted to stay at the present location.

Also in 1962, Mrs. George Clock, began to serve as Director of Christian Education, replacing David R. Updegraff from Christian Theological Seminary. Through Rovene Clock, an extended session was begun during worship for children.

On October 13, 1963, the What-So-Ever class celebrated its 50th anniversary.

Three hundred and seven new hymnals, "Christian Worship," were purchased in January and dedicated on March 31, 1963. Also in March 1963, a new electronic organ was installed and dedicated. Letters sent to the congregation concerning the building of an education building were entitled Cornerstone.

After an enthusiastic response, the site of the parsonage next to the church was chosen as the location for the new part. For a few years prior to 1963, this house had served as a church office and Sunday School space.

Finally, on May 19, 1963, ground was broken for an education building. Symbolic spades were held by Stanley Hall, Chairman of the Board of Deacons, representing the congregation; Mrs. Frank Pigg, CWF President, representing the women; Darrell Mitchell of the building committee, representing the workers; Mrs. Clock, Director of Christian Education, representing the education department; Randy Brown, Chairman of the Junior Deacons, representing the young people; and Rev. George Green, representing the people of the church -- past and present.

The new building included a pastor’s office, library, Sunday School classrooms, kitchen, and large all-purpose room (Fellowship Hall). Part of the reason for keeping the old church building and adding only the new education building was the hope to preserve the past and its traditions as well as forging into the future. The Board of Church Extension was used to finance the new building.

A crib room department was founded in May 1964. In June of the same year, Central Christian Church became a corporation. That October, Rev. Green and his wife toured the Holy Land.

In August 1965, Rev. Green left the Central Christian pastorate and was replaced by Rev. Keith Bell as an interim on September 5. At this time, 904N. East Street was purchased as the parsonage for Rev. Bell. Rev. Bell established the Church Council in March 1965; this is now known as the Cabinet.

Disaster struck Lebanon on Palm Sunday of 1965. A tornado ripped through Boone County leaving behind many dead, injured and homeless. Central Christian Church took this opportunity to serve the Lebanon community. They collected donations and picked up debris. The Fellowship Hall became the center where clothing bedding, dishes, and other necessary items were brought, sorted by volunteers and then picked up by needy victims. Mrs. Clock was in charge of the distribution center.

On May 22, 1966, Rev. Bell’s interim ended as Rev. Fred Sharp became Central Christian’s pastor. 701Edgewood Drive became the parsonage for the Sharps. Also in 1966, James Stepheno, a student at Christian Theological Seminary, was called as the new associated minister due to the departure of Mrs. Clock. Under these two new leaders, the Children’s Message given during the worship service began. Redecoration of the sanctuary in 1966 caused some of the worship services to be held in the Fellowship Hall. In August of 1966, seven charter members of the What-So-Ever class were reunited after forty years. These members were Mrs. Herbert Resener, Miss Mary Tanselle, Mrs. Ike Riley, Mrs. Waiter Hadley, Mrs. Will Duff, Mrs. Charles Park and Mrs. Charles Callane.

Christian Women’s Fellowship members began another of their many worthwhile service projects in 1969. They made afghans to give to shut-ins. Another one of CWF’s service projects of 1969 was making pajamas for Vietnamese children and sending Valentine boxes to the nine servicemen from Central Christian. Other projects were an annual sewing day to make geriatric pants, hospital gowns, bed pads and bibs. Besides participating in service, CWF tried to involve and support youth. In April they had a panel discussion with Jan Kesner, Jerry Voorhies, and John Foreman serving as the teen-age panel. Discussion topics included campus revolts, organized religion, modern music, "new" morality and the generation gap. Also in 1969 the church hosted the Sunbeam School for the Boone County Training Center for the Intellectually Handicapped. The purpose of the school was to prepare these children for special education classes. Sessions were held on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday mornings with a Sunday School class offered on Sunday mornings at the Presbyterian Church.

During the 60’s, sacrificial suppers were held where families ate beans at the church while donating the cost of the meal they would have had at home to mission work. Another mission project was the making and filling of eighty-three school bags for the children of Africa.

The 1970’s stressed awareness -- politically, environmentally and socially. The ecology movement forged ahead, while a nation aghast watched the Watergate hearings. Alex Haley researched his heritage and wrote Roots, while Isaac Asimov explored the world of the future in his science fiction.

1970 was an important year for Central Christian Church. On July 26, Jack Myers, our own Timothy, was ordained in the church sanctuary. Friends and relatives from the present and past gathered for the momentous occasion.

In May of 1971, Mrs. Frank Wade gave the "Jack and Jill" shop (a used children’s clothing store) to CWF for community service and money-making purposes. CWF continued the shop until 1983. The colored liturgical stoles which are still in use were given to the church in November 1972.

1973 brought Key ‘73, a program involving fifteen Lebanon churches, including Central Christian, who conducted a community-wide drive to bring people to church.

Hanging of the Greens, a beautiful and meaningful service of decorating the church at Christmastime, began in 1975.

In 1976 a new baptistry began the total redecoration of the sanctuary. In 1978 the church was completely insulated, and a new sound system, lighting fixtures and carpeting were installed. The walls were replastered and painted. Some pews were removed and others repositioned, with comfortable pew pads added. The pulpit was enlarged and the old organ pipes removed. The Earl and Don Weber families made and donated the pulpit, lectern and wooden cross. When the renovation was complete, a rededication service was held on November 12, 1978. Also in 1978, Olive Hoke began as Director of Christian Education, who along with Rev. Fred Sharp, retired in 1980. At this time, Claudia Grant, Central Christian Church’s first woman pastor, was called into service. Her installation ceremony took place on October 5, 1980. She worked with two Student Associate Ministers from CTS, Marcia Jewsbury from 1981-1983and Marty Phillips from 1983to the present. Both excelled in youth work.

While the world of the 1980’s concentrated on Pac-Man and Cabbage Patch Dolls along with the Cosby Show, CCC was celebrating its Sesquicentennial year. The year-long celebration, dubbed "Christians Called to Celebrate," included having a float in the 4th of July parade, a time capsule, a celebration Sunday and dinner, and members received plates with a picture of the church on it as a memento. Two relationships seemed to flourish under the leadership of Claudia Grant—a reconnection with the larger church and women’s groups. Members began attending General Assemblies, working actively on committees. During the Assembly of 1989, held in Indianapolis, Eric Beck was in charge of communion for over 8000 worshipers. Women’s circles expanded with so many members that a new one, Priscilla Circle, was founded. These active CWF groups held the annual Hearts and Flowers luncheon as a fund-raiser, had blanket collections, parenting classes, and a women’s self-defense class. Later another new circle, Lydia, was added to the group. Many of the female members also became involved in attending and working at Quadrennials held every four years at Purdue University at that time.

With Rev. Grant’s leaving in 1987 and the hiring of Dale Suggs, children’s activities seemed to take on renewed energy. Many children began attending summer church camps and several new youth activities were added: Easter Fair, Pasta to Performance, Kids Day Out, children’s musicals, and a new youth group for 4th and 5th graders, JYF, was begun. In 1989 the Caring Center moved from Memory Hall to the church basement. This relationship lasted for many years and even when the Center bought its own building and moved, members have continued to work there and support its work with donations up until the present day.

Hip-hop, the fitness craze, cell phones, and beepers dominated the 1990’s but Central Christian was more involved in the drive for a new organ. Once the new organ was installed a dedication ceremony was held in 1990. 1993saw the development of the long-range task force which was more long-range than anybody planned on. The long-range task force was formed with the idea of studying whether Central Christian should remain where it had been located since 1902(which would need to include remodeling, refurbishing, and property acquisition, since the church was landlocked), or buy property and build in a new location. Much research, debate, and prayer went on until finally in 2004, the congregation decided to remain on its current property.

A new ministry program, Stephen’s Ministry, was also begun in the 90’s. This was a program where trained church members developed one-on-one relationships with people experiencing loss in life: spouse, parent, child, job, move, any kind of loss. This ministry was instituted by Dale Suggs and Wanda Huston and lasted for many years.

Our current mission statement was developed in 1996and became a way to focus and express the direction our church would take. Developing this mission statement seemed to lead right to our first mission trip in 1997 to Yakima in Washington State.

When Rev. Dale Suggs left for California and Laurie Hart was called, it became evident that mission trips were close to her heart. Under her leadership, the CYF started participating in a work trip every summer. Soon the Chi Rho group joined in on their own trip each summer, and under the guidance of Glen and Susan Jourdan, a young adult group (named YAWT for young adult work trip) began including their own annual trip. We have now been involved in mission trips all over including North Carolina, Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi, Texas, and Michigan, as well as other states. Two overseas trips have included Honduras and El Salvador.

A remodel of the sanctuary began in 1996 mostly due to water damage. The process opened up the stained glass windows behind the choir loft which had been covered since 1904to accommodate the organ pipes.

All of which brings us to the 2000’s, a new millennium. In a world of Google, dot.com companies, and the world of "i." (iPhone, iTouch, iPad, etc), Central Christian Church continued to minister to the world at large. After the 2004decision to stay at 311E. Main Street, the board began buying property behind and adjacent to the church. These building were demolished to make way for green space and future building. The building plan would be conducted in three phases and this was the first. Some of the green space created became a community garden.

The advent of Dale Matherly’s ministry with us brought new ways of being. Bringing new forms of worship and study such as Lectio Divina, people began focusing their energy on new ways of ministering to our church, our town, and our world. We began participating in the What’s for Lunch program which sends 5lunches home with children to have during the weeks of summer when school lunches aren’t provided. Then we also became involved in Lunch Break, serving hot lunches to children and their parents during the summer months. After the 2006mission trip to El Salvador, the congregation made a covenant to help educate the young people and minister in the village of Puente Azul. This scholarship help continues currently. Other new ministries included a prayer shawl ministry started by Bonnie LaClave and turning the basement of the original building into a youth center, instigated by Rob Kernodle. Our newest ministry is the creation of OIKOS Center for Action, which will make our church a destination for other groups to come and do mission work. In the summer of 2010 the group now includes one director, two summer interns, and one project manager. The first group arrived on July 11, 2010. What a way to celebrate our 175th anniversary.

But we don’t want to leave the end of this history in the present, for part of our goal is to build a future for Central Christian Church. For one hundred and seventy-five years this church has flourished, struggled and thrived. Its achievements were brought about by the hard work and dedication of thirty-nine pastors, numerous associate pastors, and voluminous dedicated members and workers. Central Christian Church has long been a significant force in the Lebanon community. May we all strive to continue the work of Jesus Christ through His Church, so that future generations of members may reflect on our history and praise our efforts.

Compiled by Denise G. Beck



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