Thursday, June 16, 2016

The Little Church at 15th and New Jersey - Indianapolis

The picture I am including with this is not mine, but I chose it based on my memories of how the church building looked when I attended there.

Our family moved to Indianapolis in 1951.  The local congregation of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, the Indianapolis North Branch, already met at the 15th and New Jersey church building at that time.  I have no idea how long they had met there before we came.  The building had been purchased from a Protestant church of some kind, so was not new when our congregation bought it.  I was 2 when we moved there and around 6 when the building was sold, so my memories are those of a young child and subject to some inaccuracies possibly.

Looking at the picture, when we entered the church, we used the door to the left in the picture.  I remember a stairway there that went up to the chapel or sanctuary area of the church.  We entered the room from the back.  The podium area was set off from the congregation with a brass? altar rail from which hung turquoise velvet curtains about 18-24 inches long.  When facing the front of the room, I believe there was another room to the left with doors that could be opened to increase the seating area of the chapel, or closed to use for classes.  The area to the right when facing the front led into another room which also had some pews in it.  This room was pretty much used by the women’s group.

I never saw the attic of the church, but my father did. He said there was still evidence that at one time there had been a fire up there. 

The lower level of the church was probably meant to be a hall for social activities, etc, but in our congregation it was used for the children up to age 12 or so.  We met down there for Sunday School.  At the front of the room was a sort of raised platform maybe 2-3 steps up from the floor.  The rest was just a big open room.  Some of the members got together and built little backless benches of various heights for the children to sit on.  Because there were no classrooms for different age groups, my mother and her friend, Norma Whitehead,  ‘fixed’ that by finding a sale on really ugly green burlap which they used to make floor to ceiling length curtains which they strung from wires to divide off 4 areas for the 4 classes.  They divided the room visually but definitely were not sound proof, so we could hear what was going on in every class.  The curtains could be pulled back to use the room as a whole or closed to make the classroom areas.

Two memories I have of that room involved some of the families we attended church with.  The first was when the Haines children sang 'Away in a Manger' in German.  (Their father was stationed in Germany with the military for a time.)  I think this was the first time I was aware that people in other places used other languages.  Maybe this is where my interest in foreign languages began.  The other incident was when one of the children, Mary Margaret Jones, told us that it was her sister's birthday, but she was dead.  ( I didn't really understand at that time, but found out later that the baby, named Carol, had died at birth early in the morning of that Sunday.)

Two other members of the congregation stood out in my childish mind.  One was a lady who always wore a fur piece that appeared to be made of several little animals running around her neck, each biting the tail of the critter in front of it.  I loved looking at it and often couldn't resist furtively reaching out a finger to stroke it.  Another lady often wore a bright red dress which had a belt fashioned from three strands of black velvet.  The ends of the strands hung down from her waist, just the right height for a child to reach.  While she was talking to my mother one day, I found I could use those three pieces of velvet and braid them together.  I felt so grown up to know that I had figured out how to make a braid.

On Sundays we met in the morning for Sunday School…children in the basement and adults upstairs.  In the late afternoon we met again for what we called Sacrament Meeting, when all adults and children met together to listen to sermons on various gospel topics as well as to partake of the sacrament (communion).  During the week, the women’s group met for lessons on the Bible, sewing projects, etc.  The children also had a meeting during the week.  The teenagers met in the evening once a week, so the little building was well used.

The church had no furnace room.  Originally the house next door was the parsonage.  To make it easier for the pastor to stoke the furnace for the church, the church furnace was actually in the parsonage next door.  Our church had a lay ministry, so there was no official pastor, but the home was rented out to one of the members who agreed to take care of the furnace. 

I am not entirely clear on the exact year the church was sold.  I know there had been a building fund drive to earn money to build a new building, but there was a short interim time…maybe as much as a year or two…when we shared a building with another congregation, pending completion of the new church, which happened early in 1957.

At the time the church was sold, my father was the lay leader of the congregation, so he was involved in the sale of the building.  I only have one memory of that sale…standing out on the sidewalk by the church waiting for my parents to finish talking to the man who was buying it.  He had been a Methodist pastor, but wanted to start his own church  At the end of the conversation, when we all left, he leaned down and shook my hand.  Some months later, for old times’ sake, we drove by the church to see what it looked like now that another congregation had it.  I remember the sign on the side of the church.  It read:  People’s Temple…Rev. Jim Jones.

Most of the years I spent attending church there were happy ones.  Most of my memories are of various members of the congregation rather than the building itself.  By the time the building was sold, our congregation had simply outgrown the building. 

The little church building is still in use all these years later, by Restoration Baptist Church.  I am told they have remodeled it.  The furnace is no longer in the parsonage next door and it now has air conditioning!  It is located in an area which is now designated as a historical area of town, so when they remodeled the building, they were required to keep the exterior of the building to fit the historical time frame of the area.  I am glad to see that the church is still serving the community well and going strong!

Update:  27 October 2017

This is the church as it appears today.  This door used to be the main entrance.  Stairs indoors to the right went up to the chapel which is the part in the middle with the fancy windows.  This is no longer the main entrance.

This is the house next to the church that I believe was the old parsonage where the furnace used to be.

This door on the side now appears to be the main entrance.

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