BLUFFTON, Indiana--November 1838, Andrew Jackson is President, the steamship Sirius becomes the first steamship to cross the Atlantic…and in Bluffton, Indiana…population 200…a handful of worshipers pray on the banks of the Wabash River and Bluffton’s First United Methodist Church is born…175 years ago next month.
The history of First United Methodist is similar to other churches…the first wood sanctuary was built in 1847 replaced by this fine stone structure in 1872…to be replaced by the current sanctuary in 1952. The real church of course isn’t wood or stone, it’s flesh and blood, and the story of this congregation is a long litany of births and baptisms, confirmation classes and weddings, anniversaries and funerals, much of it documented in an exhibit of memorabilia on display now in the hallway. This is furniture and the baptismal font from the old sanctuary, this a 1952 Bluffton Banner newspaper from the day the current sanctuary was dedicated…and of course lots of church family photos including one of current pastor Greg Rittenhouse who grew up in this church…that’s Greg in the white tie.
“We have celebrated what our forbears have passed on to us,” says Rittenhouse, “and we’ve been focusing on, okay….how are we going to live in such a way that we hand the baton on to the next generation.”
Rittenhouse says the church’s challenges now are attracting young people into its aging congregation…continuing its charity work, a soup kitchen and help to low income school kids….and staying relevant in the community it serves. A tall order for any church, but one this house of worship has managed to fill competently, going on nearly two centuries now. Eric Olson reporting, out in 21 Country.
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