Faith, Stories told

In God’s house

North Liberty Christian Church and Bethel United Methodist Church have been neighbors for a very long time. For more than 150 years, the two churches stood about three quarters of a mile apart on the same road in Pike Township, Marion County, Indiana. Check out this section of an 1855 plat map that shows both churches.

I know that North Liberty Christian Church met in a succession of log cabins in the 1800s; I assume Bethel’s history is similar. Bethel built its brick building first, completing it in 1905. North Liberty built its brick building in 1909. Both churches later built larger, more modern buildings. While North Liberty’s 1909 building was razed to make way, Bethel’s 1905 building still stands.

Bethel UMC

When officials at Bethel learned that we at North Liberty had sold our building and were worshiping in a couple cramped hotel conference rooms, they offered to rent us their old sanctuary plus a room for our children’s ministry at whatever price we were paying for the hotel. We took them right up on their offer. It was a win-win for both of us, giving us much more room for our services and helping them pay for a family life center they had built. Here we are inside, preparing for worship on a recent Sunday.

Inside Bethel

This little sanctuary is remarkably bright inside for being lit by only four meager lamps. The stained glass windows, especially the large ones on the west and south sides, let in a lot of light.

Inside Bethel

Except for those stained glass windows, this room is understated. None of the details call much attention to themselves.

Inside Bethel

Even the pattern in the tin ceiling is gentle and quiet.

Inside Bethel

It all conspires to make the stained glass windows stand out even more.

Inside Bethel

When we left our old building last February, we thought we might be in our new building by now. Much has been done, including clearing trees, laying hardpack for the parking lot, and doing considerable drainage work. But while this was going on, we were getting quite an education in how the city works. They’ve placed several barriers in our way, and clearing them has cost us time and money. When we started this project, we had enough money to cover it. These unexpected expenses have caused us to seek financing. That has led to more delays. Now it’s too cold to lay the building’s foundation. The soonest our builder will do that is April. The soonest we could be in our new building is August.

The delays have been frustrating. But the time we’ve spent as nomads has been good for us, helping us to gel as a group and, for some, to heal from past difficulties in our congregation. We are starting to think that in God’s eyes, the building project that really matters is done. We are starting to think that we shouldn’t wait for our new building to resume our outreach. God has given us everything we need right now to do his work in our neighborhood.

My church has seen it over and over again – when God wants something to happen, it happens. Like the time we had a rock concert.

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10 thoughts on “In God’s house

  1. The sanctuary is quietly elegant; a place for worship!
    Yes, the healing of the Body is the building that is requisite to the establishment of any edifice. Bless you as you continue your ministry.

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  2. God builds us up as individuals by bringing us through trials, and so he can do the same for a community of believers. Perhaps the things you have learned about each other and the city as a result of this will help in your outreach and other ministries.

    Beautiful pictures, by the way! I love old church buildings :)

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    • God has clearly built us up spiritually through the trials we’ve endured, but we’ve shrunk in number pretty dramatically. When I started attending here, we had 150 in worship; now it’s closer to 30. We’re an older congregation — I am, I think, the youngest adult male, and I’m 43. We’re not very energetic; we’re not go-getters. So I wonder what God has in store for us in terms of reaching the lost.

      We’re building a simple frame building — it’ll be too bad, in a way, to leave this great old sanctuary behind.

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  3. kym says:

    that is a beautiful building! i was looking for mom & bob. there are alot of times i miss not being up there right now. who knows what my future holds with med school, maybe iupui? but i would not trade the valuable lessons Papa has taught me as i’ve been thru this journey. i’ve enjoyed the blogs i’ve read so far; its actually inspired me to return to my journalling. i have missed it and the benefit from putting my thoughts on paper or noe on screen. thx for the inspiration, God bless jim!
    ps u wrote this on my birthday, so i’ve got a few months on ya.

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    • I’m glad you’ve enjoyed my blog and that it’s led you to journal. The old Bethel building has been a very comfortable place for us.

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