Pioneer Church Still Going Strong after 175 Years

By Eric Olson

December 20, 2012 Updated Dec 20, 2012 at 11:45 AM EDT

CHURUBUSCO, Indiana--Indiana was a brand new state when the town of Churubusco was born in 1838, carved out of wilderness forest on an ancient Indian trail that subsequent generations would call the Goshen Road. One year before, in 1837, a handful of pioneer families built the first house of worship in Allen County’s Eel Township, the Wesley Chapel Church, alive and thriving 175 years later.

Larry Smith is pastor at now Wesley Chapel United Methodist Church. He’s the latest in a line of sixty pastors who’ve ministered to six generations of Wesley Chapel churchgoers. Smith says pioneer churches did more than minister to the families that built them. The early church was a place to gather, to socialize, to strengthen bonds between neighbors who’d offer each other a helping hand when trouble struck. It’s a world pastor Smith remembers, he was baptized in this church.

“I grew up here before we had the bathrooms in the church,” Smith recalls. “We had an outhouse and every once in a while on Halloween you’d have the outhouse tipped over and most people don’t know what an outhouse is anymore.”

Smith says worship at Wesley Chapel has changed since he was a kid, evidenced by the hi tek audio speakers on the wall, the electric drum set near the alter. The church has changed, too…new additions like the immense fellowship hall and the basement lounge used for youth meetings. But beneath the modern trappings the heart of Wesley Chapel Church beats unchanged, serving its neighbors today as it has for 17 decades.

“The pioneer families who started this church,” Larry says, “if they would be resurrected and come back and look at this…I would hopefully say job well done, son! I’d hope that they would say that.”

Eric Olson reporting, out in Your Country.

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