Indianapolis—Fulfilling a Long-Time Vision
Over the past few weeks, we virtually visited two of our congregations in Africa. This week I’d like to write about an American congregation that traces its roots back to the days of the Radio Church of God. After many years, the vibrant assembly in Indianapolis, Indiana, fulfilled a vision that many had held for decades and received a major blessing, one that is still unfolding. Through a joint effort between the Indianapolis congregation, the Council of Elders and others at the home office, a 12,000 sq. ft. building was purchased in northeast Indianapolis in 2019. Previous owners had bought and converted a former data processing facility into a multi-use church building with a formal assembly area, fellowship facility and other useful amenities.
To see a complete report about this story with many photos, please go to https://kubik.org/indianapolis-fulfilling-a-long-time-vision/.
A somewhat nomadic congregation in decades past, the Indianapolis congregation had a history of finding a meeting place, putting down some roots, and then having circumstances force a move. Like many other congregations, this happened several times over the decades. Sometimes the halls were subpar, and sometimes very nice, like the fellowship hall the Indy congregation leased from a nearly new Lutheran church before it moved into its existing facility. But that rental hall, like other halls, presented several challenges, including short-term hassles of finding alternative meeting space when the Lutheran church hosted its own events.
Bev and I lived in Indianapolis for several years when we pastored the Terre Haute and Lafayette congregations, and when I was serving as a member of the Council of Elders (Cincinnati is only about two hours away by car). We attended in Indianapolis from time to time, especially when the congregation would host a joint service with outlying congregations (which would often require the renting of a large meeting room to accommodate everyone).
The Indianapolis congregation had set up a separate building fund in 1995. Over time, this fund grew to six figures, and the Indianapolis brethren showed their generosity time and again by providing funds to other church congregations to help purchase buildings in Indiana and Ohio.
Now, owning a church hall and having 24/7 access has provided many major benefits, even during the restricted time of COVID-19 social distancing. Just before the church moved in, then-pastor Bart Bornhorst took up a new post in Pennsylvania. Joshua Creech and his wife, Lizzy, formerly serving in Tennessee, were transferred to serve the Fort Wayne and Indianapolis congregations, which has worked well.
Indianapolis, which merged with the Lafayette congregation a few years earlier (and also serves members from Muncie, Kokomo, Columbus and places in southern Indiana), holds a legendary reputation for service in hospitality and potlucks. As soon as the church moved into its new building, those and other church activities quickly ramped up. No more would chairs, audio equipment and hospitality areas have to be torn down and the building vacated before 6 p.m. each Sabbath.
A 24-hour fun weekend “lock-in” for the teens was soon organized, something that could not have happened previously. Additional rooms in the new church building were dedicated to young people and expanded Bible classes for children. Other social events and after-services fellowship were expanded, including pizza and other types of gatherings. Members quickly organized to begin upgrading the facility and making improvements to freshen up areas to allow better use by brethren.
In March 2020, things changed dramatically. Experience previously gained through setting up phone and Internet connectivity would prove very valuable during the COVID-19 lockdowns.
With an expanded capacity for support, members in Indianapolis were able to set up multiple camera angles and video graphics to enhance streaming services. While brethren safely stayed home during the early days of the pandemic, Mr. Creech and other elders were able to lead traditional services from the church building with only a handful of people present to conduct services. Everyone else linked in live through the Internet and phone, and a song leader led hymns in the traditional fashion. On occasion, live special music was presented. It provided familiar continuity, an important aspect during uncertain times.
During the lockdown, the church building was physically reset to meet Indiana COVID-19 meeting requirements, and over time larger groups of members were able to return, all adhering to Indiana’s mandated standards.
As restrictions relaxed, more members began attending. A major moment came recently with the staging of the first-ever Night to Be Much Observed at the Indianapolis hall with dozens of members pitching in to help with and enjoy a catered meal. My wife Bev and I were privileged to attend this first-time event and it was indeed a lovely and memorable evening.
Ironically, the previous hall rented by the Indianapolis congregation was closed right at the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis and only recently began allowing people back in. If Indianapolis had not made its move, the UCG congregation would not have been able to meet in any fashion at the old hall for well more than a year!
The Indianapolis congregation hosted the Fort Wayne congregation for the Last Day of Unleavened Bread. The additional available building space allowed both congregations to safely attend while remaining in compliance with state regulations. Many people had not seen each other for months. More such joint meetings are planned, since the Indianapolis church building is conveniently located near Interstate 69 that links to Fort Wayne.
Today, with upwards of 100 people attending each Sabbath, the Indianapolis church looks forward to even more activities, Bible studies, seminars and other events to maximize the use of the building. Now well-versed in online technology, Mr. and Mrs. Creech are able to regularly unite brethren from all over Indiana through online women’s Bible studies, Second-hand Lions club and other meetings.
The Bible tells us “Unless the LORD builds the house, they labor in vain who build it” (Psalms 127:1 Psalms 127:1Except the LORD build the house, they labor in vain that build it: except the LORD keep the city, the watchman wakes but in vain.
American King James Version×). At the first church service back in 2019, both Darris McNeely, a former long-time Indianapolis pastor (and currently a Beyond Today host), and I were able to positively reaffirm that members are the church, not the building, and I had the privilege of reviewing Solomon’s prayer of dedication (1 Kings 8:22-61 1 Kings 8:22-61  And Solomon stood before the altar of the LORD in the presence of all the congregation of Israel, and spread forth his hands toward heaven:  And he said, LORD God of Israel, there is no God like you, in heaven above, or on earth beneath, who keep covenant and mercy with your servants that walk before you with all their heart:  Who have kept with your servant David my father that you promised him: you spoke also with your mouth, and have fulfilled it with your hand, as it is this day.  Therefore now, LORD God of Israel, keep with your servant David my father that you promised him, saying, There shall not fail you a man in my sight to sit on the throne of Israel; so that your children take heed to their way, that they walk before me as you have walked before me.  And now, O God of Israel, let your word, I pray you, be verified, which you spoke to your servant David my father.  But will God indeed dwell on the earth? behold, the heaven and heaven of heavens cannot contain you; how much less this house that I have built?  Yet have you respect to the prayer of your servant, and to his supplication, O LORD my God, to listen to the cry and to the prayer, which your servant prays before you to day:  That your eyes may be open toward this house night and day, even toward the place of which you have said, My name shall be there: that you may listen to the prayer which your servant shall make toward this place.  And listen you to the supplication of your servant, and of your people Israel, when they shall pray toward this place: and hear you in heaven your dwelling place: and when you hear, forgive.  If any man trespass against his neighbor, and an oath be laid on him to cause him to swear, and the oath come before your altar in this house:  Then hear you in heaven, and do, and judge your servants, condemning the wicked, to bring his way on his head; and justifying the righteous, to give him according to his righteousness.  When your people Israel be smitten down before the enemy, because they have sinned against you, and shall turn again to you, and confess your name, and pray, and make supplication to you in this house:  Then hear you in heaven, and forgive the sin of your people Israel, and bring them again to the land which you gave to their fathers.  When heaven is shut up, and there is no rain, because they have sinned against you; if they pray toward this place, and confess your name, and turn from their sin, when you afflict them:  Then hear you in heaven, and forgive the sin of your servants, and of your people Israel, that you teach them the good way wherein they should walk, and give rain on your land, which you have given to your people for an inheritance.  If there be in the land famine, if there be pestilence, blasting, mildew, locust, or if there be caterpillar; if their enemy besiege them in the land of their cities; whatever plague, whatever sickness there be;  What prayer and supplication soever be made by any man, or by all your people Israel, which shall know every man the plague of his own heart, and spread forth his hands toward this house:  Then hear you in heaven your dwelling place, and forgive, and do, and give to every man according to his ways, whose heart you know; (for you, even you only, know the hearts of all the children of men;)  That they may fear you all the days that they live in the land which you gave to our fathers.  Moreover concerning a stranger, that is not of your people Israel, but comes out of a far country for your name's sake;  (For they shall hear of your great name, and of your strong hand, and of your stretched out arm;) when he shall come and pray toward this house;  Hear you in heaven your dwelling place, and do according to all that the stranger calls to you for: that all people of the earth may know your name, to fear you, as do your people Israel; and that they may know that this house, which I have built, is called by your name.  If your people go out to battle against their enemy, wherever you shall send them, and shall pray to the LORD toward the city which you have chosen, and toward the house that I have built for your name:  Then hear you in heaven their prayer and their supplication, and maintain their cause.  If they sin against you, (for there is no man that sins not,) and you be angry with them, and deliver them to the enemy, so that they carry them away captives to the land of the enemy, far or near;  Yet if they shall bethink themselves in the land where they were carried captives, and repent, and make supplication to you in the land of them that carried them captives, saying, We have sinned, and have done perversely, we have committed wickedness;  And so return to you with all their heart, and with all their soul, in the land of their enemies, which led them away captive, and pray to you toward their land, which you gave to their fathers, the city which you have chosen, and the house which I have built for your name:  Then hear you their prayer and their supplication in heaven your dwelling place, and maintain their cause,  And forgive your people that have sinned against you, and all their transgressions wherein they have transgressed against you, and give them compassion before them who carried them captive, that they may have compassion on them:  For they be your people, and your inheritance, which you brought forth out of Egypt, from the middle of the furnace of iron:  That your eyes may be open to the supplication of your servant, and to the supplication of your people Israel, to listen to them in all that they call for to you.  For you did separate them from among all the people of the earth, to be your inheritance, as you spoke by the hand of Moses your servant, when you brought our fathers out of Egypt, O LORD God.  And it was so, that when Solomon had made an end of praying all this prayer and supplication to the LORD, he arose from before the altar of the LORD, from kneeling on his knees with his hands spread up to heaven.  And he stood, and blessed all the congregation of Israel with a loud voice, saying,  Blessed be the LORD, that has given rest to his people Israel, according to all that he promised: there has not failed one word of all his good promise, which he promised by the hand of Moses his servant.  The LORD our God be with us, as he was with our fathers: let him not leave us, nor forsake us:  That he may incline our hearts to him, to walk in all his ways, and to keep his commandments, and his statutes, and his judgments, which he commanded our fathers.  And let these my words, with which I have made supplication before the LORD, be near to the LORD our God day and night, that he maintain the cause of his servant, and the cause of his people Israel at all times, as the matter shall require:  That all the people of the earth may know that the LORD is God, and that there is none else.  Let your heart therefore be perfect with the LORD our God, to walk in his statutes, and to keep his commandments, as at this day.
American King James Version×). The members in Indianapolis certainly have been living up to those high standards!
Want to experience Indianapolis firsthand? The congregation welcomes visitors; anyone can easily find the address of United Church of God in Indianapolis through a Google search or by going online to www.ucg.org/congregations/indianapolis-in