MESSIAH LUTHERAN CHURCH -- BROWNSBURG, INDIANA
In 1964 the LCA’s Board of American Missions sent Rev. Keith Kinney to develop a mission in Brownsburg, IN. After knocking on the doors of countless homes, Rev. Kinney had his most memorable response at the Hopkins household. Mary Louise Hopkins responded to his sharing that a Lutheran Church was being started in Brownsburg with, “Come in. I have waited 10 years for you!”
On September 13, 1964 the first worship service was held in the College Avenue Gymnasium with 101 in attendance. (This same gym was later used for scenes in the movie “Hoosiers”.) The old Post Office Building became available and the congregation purchased it as Messiah’s first church home. It served the congregation for the first couple of years. Those first years the Browny Movie Theater across the street served as Sunday school classroom space.
The official organization of the church took place December 13, 1964 as a member congregation of The Lutheran Church in America, with 70 adults and 67 children as Charter Members. The Rev. Keith Kinney was called as Messiah’s first pastor. The congregation was accepted formally into the Indiana-Kentucky Synod of the LCA on May 17, 1965.
A parsonage was purchased for Pastor Kinney and his family, which doubled as a church office. It was soon apparent that a larger church was needed. Four acres of land, at the congregation's present location, 801 South Green Street, Brownsburg, were purchased. Soy beans were planted in 1965 to raise some funds, and in December of that year the congregation approved construction of the first unit of the current facility, which now serves as our fellowship hall, at a cost of $106,200. The congregation formed a building committee with Howard Buetow as chair. On November 6, 1966, a groundbreaking service heralded the beginning of construction on the new church building and multi-purpose unit. The first service in the new building was held on July 16, 1967. Messiah continued to grow under Pastor Kinney’s leadership, with the help of wife Rosalind who started our first choir and led it for eight years. Mary Louise Hopkins served as Messiah’s first organist, and continued in this role until 1982. Mary Louise also brought dedicated leadership and continuity to our Worship and Music Board, serving as its Director from the forming of the church in 1965 through the spring of 2012.
Pastor Kinney resigned his call in the fall of 1972. In January, 1973 John Kincaid Smith accepted the call to be Messiah’s second pastor. Pastor Smith developed personal doctrinal differences with the Lutheran Church in America. At the congregational picnic Pastor Smith announced his intentions to leave the LCA and invited members to leave with him. Subsequently Smith took a segment of the congregation with him to form Christ Lutheran Church, LCMS, in Brownsburg.
Pastor George Hoog was called to Messiah as our Pastor on October 28, 1976. With the loss of several member families and the sudden resignation of Rev. Smith, there was a lot of confusion and hurt among the remaining members. Pastor Hoog did a lot of work to rebuild our faith in our church and in Lutheranism. Pastor Hoog and his wife, Judy, were unifying factors. The church grew under his leadership in faith, numbers, and facilities. A multi-purpose wing was added in 1978 at a cost of $36,000. David Quandt was the chairman of the building committee. Pastor Hoog left Messiah in 1985.
In June 1985 Reverend Fred Fiedler became Messiah’s fourth pastor. Pastor Fiedler brought God’s Word to the congregation in a readily understood manner. Pastor Fiedler started the use of children’s sermons as a regular part of worship. He also started the “cottage meetings” which took place in member’s homes. These meetings laid the groundwork for increased stewardship of time and talents, making possible the building of an addition. The congregation continued to grow, and in an effort to accommodate expanded ministry needs, new office space and education classrooms were constructed in 1989. The building committee was chaired by George Heller, and the cost of the improvements was $250,000. During Pastor Fiedler’s tenure Messiah went to two Sunday services. Communion was offered once a month at each service, with Communion on the first Sunday of the month at 8:30 service, and third Sunday of the month at the 10:45 service. On Sunday, December 10, 1989, we celebrated the 25th anniversary of the organization of Messiah with worship services lead by Bishop Ralph Kempski and a dinner. Pastor Fiedler retired on December 31, 1990.
Pastor Bill Steinke accepted the call to serve Messiah in 1991. Many improvements were made, including a new organ in 1992, purchased through a donation from E.A. (Doc) Howard; and a pavilion east of the church was constructed as a memorial to William “Bill” Gibboney, a charter member. With the growth of the congregation to over 550 members under the leadership of Pastor Steinke, expanded spaces for worship and ministry were needed. Karl Buetow served as chair of this building committee and a budget of $850,000 was established. Messiah built a new sanctuary, narthex, and office suites; with the first services being held in the new sanctuary on Christmas Eve, 1997. Programs like Stephen Ministry, Door Step Visitation, and Care Ministry were introduced during Pastor Steinke’s tenure. Social ministry programs like Brownsburg Health Center “Bingo”, a Food Pantry, and involvement in Habitat for Humanity began at this time and continue to be important and well-supported ministry efforts. Lutheran Disability Ministries is another “hands-on” ministry that Messiah values and supports. Participation in weekly Friendship Bible Study meetings and support of Son Rise Camp are two of the ways members demonstrate their passion for sharing the love of Christ.
Pastor Steinke was diagnosed with cancer in 1998, followed by surgery and treatment. The Reverend Connie Coy filled in for six months during pastor’s recovery.
Messiah made several worship related changes. The first contemporary service was offered on September 26, 1999. Contemporary worship was offered once a month for the next decade. A Saturday night worship service was added to Messiah’s schedule on a regular basis. In 2003 we started the celebration of the sacrament of Holy Communion at every service; each Saturday night and both Sunday services.
In 2000 the congregation extended a call to Pastor Doug Givan as Associate Pastor. Pastor Givan instituted new ministries including a week-night men’s Bible study, and continued existing traditions like a living nativity. Pastor Givan served as Associate Pastor until 2005, when he accepted a call to Crawfordsville. Intern Barbara Dahl served at Messiah at this time and contributed greatly to the life and ministry of Messiah during the year she was with us.
After Pastor Keith Kinney’s death in 2002, the title of Pastor Emeritus of Messiah was conferred upon him, and the parish/fellowship hall was dedicated and renamed the Kinney Family Life Center.
A new Yamaha piano was donated in 2003 to enhance our worship and fellowship; and a projection, sound booth, and monitor system were installed in 2006 in the sanctuary and narthex to facilitate improved communications and provide enhanced worship audio and visual presentation capabilities.
Beginning in July, 2006, Pastor John Stacey served as an interim assistant pastor. Pastor Stacey brought gifts of leadership, pastoral care, and Biblical knowledge, assisting Pastor Steinke for nine months.
2007 brought more changes in our ministry staff. In January, Steve King was called as our Minister of Youth and Family Life. He continues to expand our youth and children ministries, and provides leadership for our family life ministries. In April, Ken Hebel was installed as Director of Ministries. In December 2007 Pastor Steinke accepted a call to St. Paul’s Middlebury, IN.
During the pastoral vacancy beginning in January, 2008, Pastor Donn Abdon served as the Interim Pastor of Messiah. Through Pastor Abdon’s leadership a renewed emphasis on Bible study was realized. Pastor Abdon also led the council through workshops and facilitated the adoption of a new organizational structure and by-laws. Attendance and giving remained relatively stable during this interim period. The use of Eucharistic Ministers to take communion to the homebound was begun in 2009.
Pastor Charles J. Miller, II accepted the call as Senior Pastor at Messiah, Brownsburg and began serving as pastor on August 16, 2010. Under Pastor Miller’s leadership Messiah has adopted the vision of Creating Christ-Centered Community. While being a close-knit family sharing Christian love, Messiah also values being an open and guest-friendly community. Through sharing its facilities, approachable members, visitor-friendly communications, and a general atmosphere of hospitality it is reaching out to the community in mission.
In 2011 Messiah used a matching technology grant of $30,000 from the Center for Congregations, to upgrade our computers and server systems, place screens in the sanctuary, and provide new lighting, speakers and projection systems in the KFLC. In 2012 a $15,000 matching Resource Grant from the Center for Congregations provided: a new logo and tag-line to heighten our branding in the community, an upgrading of our website presence through a new website and social networking, and the implementing “best practices” in strategic communications to increase our communications effectiveness.
Worship has increased in the extent of lay involvement. Musically, in addition to our choir, worshippers enjoy pieces by adult and youth hand bell groups, a brass ensemble, and various small group and solo vocal and instrumentalists. Families are involved through Advent wreath candle lighting and Lenten symbol presentations. A monthly Service of Prayer and Healing was begun in 2009 on Thursday evenings. Beginning in 2011 midweek Advent services were held. A tabernacle for the communion elements was dedicated in 2011.
Christian Education is a strong value, as is indicated by the classroom spaces provided and the number of lay volunteers to help with teaching and support. A large number of adults continue to participate in Christian education classes, both on Sunday morning and throughout the week. Three members of Messiah participated in the Diakonia program in 2011-2012, and Pastor Miller served as one of the instructors. Lutheran camp participation continues to be a valued program, with scholarships offered for all member children, and member young adults serving on the camp staffs in leadership as well as service positions over the past several years.
Outreach into the community continues to be a value furthered by our summer VBS program, which was first instituted by Rosalind and Pastor Kinney in the 1960s. Originally it was held in the mornings during the week, but now is an evening program during the summer. A community welcoming Fall Fest activity was begun in 2011 under the leadership of Pat Lusk.
Fellowship, with much food, is a trademark of Messiah. A strong women’s group continues a tradition here, with four circles currently meeting regularly and several whole group activities annually. The first women’s group was begun at the inception of the congregation by Rosalind Kinney. In 1987, with the new church formation, the groups transitioned into WELCA. The OWLS, Older Wiser Lutherans, is a dependable place for good fellowship for empty nesters formed in early 2000 by Mary Louise Hopkins. A summer softball team and golf outing are recreational traditions. (Messiah won the Brownsburg area church basketball league title in the 1960s.) The church picnic is a much anticipated annual event.
In 2012 Messiah provides leadership at the synod level, with Tom Barker serving as a member of the Synod Council, and Sue Miller serving as Synod Treasurer.
As Messiah Lutheran Church in Brownsburg approaches its 50 year anniversary, it prays that it will continue to provide a place for reassuring faith in an unsure world.