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St. Christopher's Episcopal Church, Crown Point
St. Christopher's Episcopal Church, Crown Point, was organized as a diocesan mission in 1958 with a building erected at 12718 Marshall Street. Prior to 1958, Episcopalians in Crown Point had to travel north to Gary, Hobart, Hammond, or Valparaiso to attend weekly Eucharist. At that time there were at least twelve Episcopalian families in Crown Point. On Easter weekend 1958, those families petitioned Bishop Reginald Mallet to explore the possibility of establishing a church in the seat of Lake County. Bishop Mallet did not initially embrace this church planting for fear that the challenge was too large. However, the will of the people was strong, and they persevered.
On August 3, 1958, more than 90 people attended an organizing meeting across the street from the old Methodist Church in Dr. Grey's office to form the church. A few weeks later another meeting in Durfee's side yard was held to establish the name of St. Christopher’s. On September 7, 1958, the first service was held in the Methodist Church on Main Street. 124 people attended the service, and 87 received communion. 47 children joined the Sunday school, which had six teachers, one of whom was Leslie (Les) Heckel. Les remained a beloved member of St. Christopher’s until his death in 2011.
From the first organizing meeting, the membership of St. Christopher’s was eager for its own church. At the time, Richard Banser worked for Henderlong Lumber Company. During a hunting trip with his boss and friend, Arnold, Banser learned that the property where the church now resides was for sale. The church community quickly started saving money and was able to successfully purchase the property.
In the meantime, the church held services each Sunday in the Methodist Church. Despite being a newly-formed congregation, music was a priority from its beginning. In fact, for almost the first year of worship the members carried their own organ in and out of the Methodist Church each Sunday. On the first anniversary in 1959, St. Christopher welcomed its first rector, the Rev. Leslie C. Howell.
Mrs. Banser, president of St. Christopher's Women's Auxiliary, served at the anniversary celebration's "beautifully decorated tea table." Mrs. Banser has since passed, but her husband, Dick, still served on the vestry and attended 9 a.m. Sunday services and weekday Eucharist for many years afterward.
While the church was growing stronger, its members were also preparing for the future. In December 1961, the congregation broke ground for its current building on Marshall Street. Banser recalled that it was a bitter cold and blustery day with snow "up to the armpits." The weather didn’t slow them down. They marched all around the property, acolytes and all, to consecrate the land that would be the foundation for their new church home. He fondly remembered the nearly frozen fingers and toes from that worship service.
The following spring, the basement and foundations were poured. Since the founders were eager to avoid debt, they built the church as time and resources allowed. Services were held in the basement for more than a year before the upstairs space was ready for worship. The building itself, as it was constructed, followed a popular style of the time called the Cuckler design. The altar, which is still used today, was built by Wilbur Husemann. The men of the church installed and finished the hardwood floors themselves. The pews were purchased from a church in La Porte and had been stored in Miller’s barn prior to being cleaned and prepared for their current home. Eleanor Miller hand-stitched all of the altar linens.
Since the Rev. Leslie Howell, St. Christopher’s has welcomed a succession of talented priests, including the Rev. Thomas Ray in 1960; the Rev. Charles Dibble from 1964 to 1971; the Rev. William R. Hull from 1971 to 1978 (named the first rector in 1977); and the Rev. Patrick Heiligstedt from 1979 to 1996. The congregation built a rectory in which two different priests in succession lived before it was sold in the 1990s. In 1996, the Rev. Col. Ronald R. Baskin assisted. After Heiligsted retired, the Rev. George Minnix served as priest from 1996 to 2001.
At the turn of the millennium, the Rev. Spencer Thiel joined the church and remained priest-in-charge until 2014. In 2011, Thiel welcomed Michael Dwyer to serve as a deacon, enabling him to prepare for his ordination as a priest. Dwyer became the priest-in-charge of the Calumet Episcopal Ministry Partnership (CEMP), which St. Christopher joined in June 2015.
Leslie Charles Howell, 1959-1961
Thomas Kreider Ray, 1961-1964
Charles Ralph Dibble, 1964-1971
William Russell Hull, 1971-1978
Patrick Charles Heiligstedt, 1979-1996
Ronald Russell Baskin, 1996
George Myers Minnix, 1996-2001
Spencer Thiel, 2001-2016
Michelle I. Walker, 2015-2020 (CEMP)
Kristine Graunke, 2015-2020 (CEMP)
Michael Dwyer, 2016-2018 (CEMP)
Pamela Thiede, 2020- (CEMP)
Cynthia Moore, 2020-2021 (CEMP)
Adapted from St. Christopher's website: http://www.calumetepiscopal.org/st-christopher/about.php
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Edward Stuart Little II, Seventh Bishop
Edward Stuart Little, the seventh bishop of the Diocese of Northern Indiana, held office at a time of intense changes in the national church. An outstanding preacher, he brought an evangelical zeal for the Gospel that ushered in a new leadership style for the diocese. As Linda Buskirk has written, Bishop Little personified "the lighthouse on the diocesan seal" and "delivered powerful messages that illuminate priorities for Christ centered living and ministry."
Little was born in New York City on 29 January 1947, the son of a nominally Episcopalian father and Jewish mother. He grew up agnostic and attended school in Manhattan and Norwalk, Connecticut. He received his Bachelor's degree from the University of Southern California in 1968. He credits a college class on the Bible as literature as bringing about his conversion to Christianity and his joining the Episcopal Church. The same year of his graduation he married Sylvia Gardner at Palm Desert, California. They had two children: Gregory and Sharon.
After deciding to enter the Episcopal priesthood, Little received a Master of Divinity degree from Seabury-Western Theological Seminary in 1971 and was ordained a deacon and priest that same year in the Diocese of Chicago. He served as a curate in two parishes: St. Matthew's Evanston and St. Michael's, Anaheim, California, before becoming vicar of St. Joseph's Episcopal Church in Buena Park, California. When that church achieved parish status, he became its first rector. Little became rector of All Saints Church in Bakersfield, California, in 1986, and from here he was elected bishop on the first ballot on 5 November 1999.
Little was consecrated bishop at a ceremony in the Basilica of the Sacred Heart at Notre Dame on 30 April 2000, with Bishops Gray and Sheridan, his two predecessors, among the consecrators. His sixteen-year episcopate that followed might best be understood as defined by three distinct eras: The Mission and Evangelism era lasting from 2000 to 2003; the Reconciliation Era from 2003 to 2007, and the Congregational Development Era from 2007 to 2016.
The initial focus of Little's tenure was mission and evangelism. At the time of his seating as bishop, he articulated four core values for the diocese that he hoped would guide it during his episcopate:
1. A passion for the Gospel of Jesus Christ
2. A heart for the lost.
3. A willingness to do whatever it takes.
4. A commitment to one another.
Taking a strongly evangelical and Jesus-centered view of ministry, one of his early actions was to hold a Rally for Mission and Evangelism at Goshen College in 2001 with Bishop Charles Jenkins of Louisiana as the keynote speaker. About 700 attended, and Little intended it as an inspirational kick-off for getting church-goers to invite others to church and help the diocese grow. Bishop Sheridan, the diocese's last tradition Anglo-Catholic bishop, also took part, even though the approaches of the two men to ministry differed significantly.
The second era, Reconciliation, began in 2003, when Gene Robinson, an openly gay priest living in a same-sex relationship, was elected and consecrated Bishop of New Hampshire with the General Convention's consent. The election had occurred against the backdrop at the national level of a church rent by internal divisions over issues of sexuality and same-sex marriage. Robinson's election caused a firestorm within some congregations of the diocese and at the national level, it prompted many conservative Anglicans to leave the Episcopal Church and form the Anglican Church in North America. The election of Katharine Jefferts-Schori as Presiding Bishop in 2006 prompted three dioceses, Quincy, Fort Worth, and San Joaquin, to leave the Episcopal Church. While Little opposed same-sex marriage and forbid them from occurring in the diocese, he remained within the Episcopal fold. As a compromise, he would eventually allow same-sex couples to marry outside the diocese and permit priests in the diocese to perform those rites. He reached out to liberals, even befriending Bishop Robinson, and agreed to provide pastoral care to some congregations who had opposed Robinson's election. Within the diocese, a number of parishes experienced losses as members left the church, but other parishes strongly affirmed gay rights and differed with the bishop's stand on same-sex marriages.
The third era of Little's episcopate, the Congregational Development era, began in 2007. Attendance trends in parishes throughout the diocese followed those of the national church as membership in many parishes decreased and in some, dwindled. Little sought to infuse them with new life through dynamic preaching and encouraging people to tell their own faith stories. He had inherited his first Canon to the Ordinary, David Seger, from his predecessor and acknowledged to Seger his appreciation for the continuity and knowledge he brought with his ministry. After Seger's retirement in 2007, Little called the Rev. SuzeAnne Silla as the new canon, blessing her extensive experience in congregational development with the Diocesan Congregational Development Institute (DCDI). The purpose of DCDI was to give clergy and laity across the diocese more confidence and skill in problem solving, visioning for the future, and conflict management. About 20 congregations took part, and it had the side-benefit of bringing leaders from different parishes together and fostering inter-parish relationships.
In 2013, Little articulated five imperatives for the diocese in using DCDI: Focus on Jesus; Think Biblically; Proclaim Good News; Feed people who are hungry; and Mentor young people. As the vision played out, some parishes began offering bilingual services while others sought new ways of meeting the needs of their communities.
One of the challenges faced by Little's episcopate was the dwindling membership of certain parishes and their inability to support a priest. Many priests were necessarily bi-vocational to support themselves, but the problem of clergy shortage became particularly acute in the Calumet area of the diocese, where some parishes were floundering and in danger of closing. A major success story was the Calumet Episcopal Ministry Partnership (CEMP), which first formed in 2010. Three congregations, St. Barnabas-in-the-Dunes, St. Paul's Munster, and St. Timothy's Griffith, came together in dialogue, and what emerged was a vision of one church in three locations, all sharing the same full-time priest. The program proved successful, and not only was a full-time priest, the Rev. Michael Dwyer, ordained in 2012 for the post, but three other part-time priests also signed on. In June 2015, St. Christopher's Crown Point joined the partnership, followed by two others, St. Stephen's Hobart and St. Augustine Gary, under Little's successor, Bishop Douglas Sparks.
Bishop Little announced his retirement effective 30 June 2016 and served as a consecrator of his successor. He and his wife Sylvia continued to live in Indiana and take up residence in Mishawaka. As his greatest overall goal, Little has said: "When I became bishop, I committed myself to helping the diocese become increasingly Christocentric; to helping every man, woman, and child in the diocese to speak openly of their relationship with Jesus; and to helping parishes to see the world beyond their doors as their mission field." The core values were the guiding principles of his tenure.
Source: Email message of Bishop Edward Little, August 2019.
Holy Eucharist and Ordination of Edward Stuart Little II ...18 March 2000
Pastoral Letter on Same Sex Marriage, 2012