SALEM CHURCH 1985-PRESENT
by Tim Ottinger
1985… Dow Jones closes at 1297.92 (record high) after topping 1300 earlier. See- things aren’t so bad after all. Lets see… What else was happening in 1985? Mickey Mouse went to China. Bobby Knight threw a chair. Leaded gas is discontinued by order of the EPA. The first Internet domain name is registered (symbolics.com). April 23rd- New Coke replaces old Coke. July 10th- Old Coke comes back.
Such is the life and times, the ups and downs of 1985… not unlike today. Time always marches on… on its terms… with a mind of its own.
Rev. James Hertel Sr., introduced earlier as joining Salem as pastor in 1984, enthusiastically continued to advise, guide and counsel the souls of this community for thirteen years, ensuring continuity of a small congregation, but a congregation filled with love and vitality for this small and very meaningful place on earth. Pastor Hertel felt that keeping Salem’s church building in good repair, and a focus to expand the congregation was mandatory to maintain its existence. The average Sunday attendance back then was around 40.
During his era, from 1984 to 1997, plexiglas covers were placed on the outside of these beautifully stained glass windows around you today; a nursery was established downstairs in 1986, overseen by Ruth Wilson and Diane Ward who recognized the importance to nurture and provide for young families in the church, the “UMYF”, or United Methodist Youth Fellowship was restarted in 1987 under the efforts of Jim and Judy Washburn, Donna Ricketts, Dick Wheeler and Virginia Crose.
In 1987, new carpet was installed in the sanctuary and pew cushions were added. Pastor Hertel continued “Fellowship Time with Goodies’ before Sunday morning services which Rev. Robert Phillips had initiated during his short, but very helpful time in that transitory summer of ‘84.
And last but not least, Rev. Hertel also initiated the Children’s Sermon during the Sunday morning service. “The children are the future” he emphasized and “teaching them early of God’s unconditional love should hold no equal in our priorities”. The Youth Ministry here at Salem is active and vibrant today, and is currently directed by Paula Overman. Thank you Paula!
Judy and Jim Washburn helped initiate Salem’s Strawberry and Ice Cream Booth in 1988 at Zionsville’s Country Market Art Fair, held each May. These proceeds helped fund Salem’s building and repair projects of which lately have been many.
The 1990s saw the beginning of Salem’s first monthly newsletter, later named “Salem Scribbles”. The first editor was Cathy Siebert. This newsletter continues today, hard copy or email, full of timely information of all the happenings of Salem with the professional skills of Mary Ann Feeley, Andy and Kathy Melhop. 1991 found the establishment of Salem’s College Fund to help our youth’s tuition bills. Previously this was funded in part by the annual Ice Cream Social each July.
In 1994, Robert Bender, Sr. oversaw the rebuilding of the entrance to Salem with a new covered porch, stairs and landing. 1996 brought the establishment of Salem’s Food Pantry under the direction of Dave Spencer.
1996 proved to be a banner year when Pastor Hertel raised over $25,000 in 25 minutes one Sunday morning to help fund Salem’s planned projects-- including a new parking lot on the north side of Salem, sidewalks making the downstairs Fellowship Hall handicapped accessable, a total kitchen renovation (with the help of the UMW and men), beautiful new kitchen cabinets built by Bob Overman, the remodeling of Fellowship Hall, three new gas furnaces and five air-conditioning units. A total of $37,726 was spent on these projects. This was not just what was needed then, but a commitment that this historic church is here to stay.
1997 brought a sorrowful note with Pastor Hertel’s unexpected retirement after suffering from a stroke in early spring. Pastor Hertel, after much careful consideration helped recruit a minister whom he admired and respected, Rev. Wayne Patton, to take over the pulpit. And so it came to be, in November of 1997, Salem bid farewell to another beloved minister of thirteen years…Rev. James Hertel.
Pastor Wayne Patton certainly kept the momentum at Salem rolling. In 1998, new furnishings were acquired for the Fellowship Hall, the parking lot was expanded south towards the Salem Cemetery, and an alarm system was installed due to the unfortunate incidents of church arsons in Boone County at that time.
1999 brought improvements to make Salem more handicapped accessible and enjoyable to all. A chairlift was installed, making both the upper and lower levels available to all members. A new sound system was installed, new hymnals and Bibles were purchased including some with enlarged print for the first time.
Unfortunately the new Millennium brought illness to our pastoral leadership again. For health concerns Pastor Patton believed it was in everyone’s best interest to retire and a minister from Indianapolis, Rev. Bonnie Plybon graciously assisted, again a transition time at Salem’s pulpit. During the year 2000 that Rev. Plybon was here, the office was remodeled and Rev. Plybon initiated the Discipleship Bible Study Series which eventually led to the current Adult Bible Study Class held each Sunday at 10:30 a.m. following the regular church service.
It was known that Bonnie Plybon’s heart was helping the unfortunate for the inner city. Rev. Plybon left Salem in 2001 from which another new light entered our chapel and that being Rev. Phil Lewis, also a “sort of” retired minister, who came to ‘fill in’ temporarily for two or three Sundays (so he thought)… He stayed for four wonderful years! Under his leadership, the Baptismal Dove stained glass window which had been removed, was returned to Salem by Tami Weber, restored and replaced to its original position over the alter with the support of Robert Bender, Sr. and Chalmer Crose.
We probably don’t need to include but 2002 brought ‘Critter Control’ to Salem, removing over 1,200 bats (so they say) from the bell tower. Ever hear the term- “Bats in your belfry?” Not to fear, they’re gone… we think.
Much needed repairs were made to roofs, eaves and the belfry. Paving of Salem’s parking lots were complete. New front doors and a new epoxy floor in the kitchen and Fellowship Hall were accomplished in 2003.
In 2005, another permanent retirement occurred with Rev. Phil Lewis. Rev. Patton returned again to Salem with the assistance of his friend, Rev. James E. Miller. Rev. Patton had his final Salem Church farewell in June 2008. Salem held a lovely event honoring his many wonderful years in ministry as well as his time at Salem Church. Happily, he still returns as a visitor, (we’ve seen him sneak in at times), and is a substitute speaker when needed.
Pastor Jim Miller took over the reins July 1, 2008 and has continued Salem’s vitality and growth. He said it had been 40 years since at the pulpit but we find that hard to believe. His Sunday messages are meaningful and aptly from the times we live. If there is someone ill or in need of a visit, more often than not- by the time Rev. Miller is called he has already been to see the friend in need.
In 2008, under Mary Jean Ottinger’s direction, Salem’s 90-year old pews were wonderfully refurbished. A humidifier system was installed to maintain the health of these refurnished pews. Additional recent projects have been many- a larger meeting/conference room downstairs; new carpeting in classrooms, the stairs and Annex, new lighting, new cabinetry in the vestibule and choir room, and refurbished flooring in the Annex, and new painting of the Altar area and Sanctuary, not to mention much new woodwork beautifully matching the old with the new.
Pastor Miller continues our Christmas Eve Services (which were begun by Rev. Patton in 2006), and Pastor Miller initiated Maundy Thursday Services in 2007. Both of these evening events are beautiful, richly significant and greatly appreciated by the congregation.
Our congregation is small compared with others, but we are obviously very proud of the heritage of our friendly little country church. It is still under research if we are indeed the oldest continuously active church in Boone County. Our average Sunday worship attendance today is about 75, and many of those attendees are ancestors to those who started this little country church in “cabin” homes so many years ago… with a uncompromising faith, courage and determination to make it work.
In 2011 the members and congregation of Salem have provided vital ministries to our community and to county organizations such as The Caring Center in Lebanon, Fletcher Place, the Indiana United Methodist's Children's Home, Love INC of Boone County, School on Wheels, The Shalom Community of South Lebanon and many more.
Salem United Methodist Church of Zionsville, IN- “Large enough to serve; small enough to care.”