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St. Andrew's Episcopal Church, Kokomo
In 1885, Bishop David Buel Knickerbacker of Indiana conducted Kokomo's first Episcopal service in the Congregational church. R. L. Wilcock, an Englishman and Methodist, went to that first service and spoke the necessary responses from the prayerbook so that the bishop would have some someone to "talk back to him."
The mission of St. Andrew's was organized soon afterward, and it led two candidates to prepare for confirmation in 1890. The congregation met variously in lodge rooms, halls, offices, and occasionally in other churches. The boom in natural gas production brought many new residents to north central Indiana, including many from England, who lent their support to the church. The fledgling congregation built a church at Taylor and LaFountain streets in 1893. However, the lay leadership invested church funds unwisely, losing all of its money in the financial panic of 1893 and forcing the vestry to sell the property. The congregation was left deeply discouraged. Bishop John Hazen White commented in his 1896 convention address: "To my great sorrow I found myself driven to the conclusion that the best course to pursue was to surrender the property to those who held a mortgage against it for more than its value, abandon the field entirely and hope that in the near future a more propitious opportunity would offer of beginning a mission there under conditions hopeful and promising. There have been no services there during the year."
During these years the Rev. Francis C. Woodard of Alexandria, Indiana, worked heroically to keep the congregation going while also devoting time to nearby St. Stephen's Mission in Elwood. In 1897, Mr. and Mrs. Fred Beacon opened their home for services, and the Rev. Edward Wilson Averill of Peru came down during the week to conduct services. Later, the congregation met in a hall above Charles Jinkerson's grocery store at the corner of South Main and Markland Avenue. By one account, the services "were characterized by unbounded enthusiasm and zeal and exerted a wide influence, but the work was crippled by the removal of active workers."
The mission was briefly named St. John's and met at Love's Hall on Markland Avenue. The name was returned to St. Andrew's by 1902, when the Rev. Henry Neely led the purchase of a mission property at 111 North Market Street in the center of town. For a time the church met there in an old brick residence in Tudor Revival style known as the Scoven house. On the rear of the lot the congregation built a parish house with a rectory on the second floor. The previous vicar, the Rev. J. Otis Ward, had gone East to raise money for a church, collecting enough to make a down payment. Later, a small chapel was built on the site.
Neely left in 1911, and for several months the parish celebrated Morning Prayer under the leadership of lay reader Cleon E. Bigler. Bishop White reported that year that the mission was heavily in debt, which the diocese assumed with the aid of the trustees. However, some debt remained for the parish to pay as well. The Rev. John F. Plummer arrived in 1912, and four years later, Bishop White reported that Plummer "continues to do most excellent work at Kokomo, where he is steadily extricating the mission from the debt that has rested upon it for many years. Besides meeting all their operating expenses, paying all their missionary obligations, both diocesan and general, and doing considerable charity work, they have cut down the principal of their debt $350." The vicar's efforts were successful enough for the mission to be recognized as a parish in 1922, with Plummer becoming the first formal rector.
In 1923, under Cleon Bigler's leadership (who had gone from being a lay reader to a priest in Illinois), the congregation purchased land on West Superior Street and developed architectural plans for a new building, but the estimated cost of $150,000 proved too much for the congregation to raise. In 1928, under the leadership of the Rev. Harry Kellam and later the Rev George Jewell, the congregation, using a horse-drawn team, moved the old church building on Market Street to a location at 602 West Superior Street, adjoining several structures.
In 1948, after the arrival of the Rev. Peter Dennis, the congregation drafted plans for a new church on the site to adjoin the older structures. These plans were less elaborate than the 1925 plans, and the money was successfully raised. The shell of that new building, a Gothic Revival Church, was completed in 1952 under the leadership of the Rev. Richard Cooper. Eventually, the building was finished and stained glass windows were installed. Further improvements to the chancel followed in 1973 under the Rev. George Davis. By the 1990s, St. Andrew's thrived under the leadership of the Rev. Derek Harbin, having 210 families by 1995.
The Rev. Richard Lightsey arrived in 2000 and under his leadership, St. Andrew's continues to flourish. A major outreach ministry is Sol House, a community gathering place for the arts and a place to "connect with others spiritually and explore diversity."
Francis C. Woodard, 1893-1897
Edward Wilson Averill, 1897
Josiah Otis Ward, 1900-1901
Henry Ritchie Neely, 1901-1910
Henry Lodge, 1911-1912
John Francis Plummer, 1912-1923
Cleon E. Bigler, 1923-1928
Harry M. Kellam, 1928-1929
George Arthur Peters Jewell, 1930-1939
Gerald H. Lewis, 1939-1947
Peter Dennis, 1948-1954
Richard Cooper, 1954-1972
George Davis, 1973-1991
J. Derek Harbin, 1992-1999
Richard B. Lightsey, 2000-
Jackson Morrow, History of Howard County, Indiana (Indianapolis: B. F. Bowen, n.d.), 1: 442-446.
Howard County Genealogical Society, Howard County, Indiana Family History, 1844-1994 (Paducah, Kentucky: Turner Publishing Co., 1995), p. 91.
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Douglas Everett Sparks, Eighth Bishop
Bishop Douglas Everett Sparks, the eighth bishop of the Diocese of Northern Indiana, is the current incumbent. Born on 8 January 1956, he studied Philosophy at St. Mary's Seminary College, graduating with a Bachelor's degree in 1980. Subsequently, he received a Master's degree from De Andreis Institute of Theology in 1984. Ordained a priest in the Roman Catholic Church in 1984, he served parishes in Missouri, Colorado, and Illinois. In 1989 he was received as a priest into the Episcopal Church, serving as rector of St. Luke's Episcopal Church in Whitewater, Wisconsin, from 1990 to 1995. He also married Dana Wirth and had three children: Christina, Graham, and Gavin.
Sparks later served at St. Matthias Church in Waukesha, Wisconsin, then went to New Zealand to become Dean of St. Paul's Cathedral in Wellington. On returning to the United States, he became rector of St. Luke's Episcopal Church in Rochester, Minnesota. From here he was elected bishop on 6 February 2016. He was consecrated at Trinity English Lutheran Church, Fort Wayne, on 25 June 2016 by Presiding Bishop Michael Curry.
Bishop Sparks has adopted a five-point plan of mission that will guide his episcopate:
1. Tell the Good News of the Kingdom.
2. Teach, Baptize, and Nurture new believers.
3. Tend to human need with loving service.
4. Transform unjust structures of society.
5. Treasure God's Creation and renew the Earth.
Bishop Sparks has reversed previous diocesan policy and approved same-sex marriages being performed in the diocese with the consent of individual parishes. He was personally present for the wedding of South Bend mayor Pete Buttigieg to Chasten Glezman on 16 June 2018 in a ceremony at the Cathedral of St. James in South Bend. He has also formed a strong pastoral partnership with Bishop Jennifer Baskerville-Burrows of the Diocese of Indianapolis, marching for social justice issues, against gun violence, and in favor of greater acceptance of all marginalized groups in the Church. He is an "activist bishop" and comfortable in that role, but he is always careful to ground that advocacy in his faith.
On a national level, the Episcopal Church began an initiative under Presiding Bishop Michael Curry to become a "Beloved Community" to promote racial reconciliation. Part of that process involved studying and apologizing for sins committed against minority groups throughout its history. During his sabbatical in 2022, Bishop Sparks walked the Potawatomi Trail of Death, traveling on foot from Plymouth, Indiana, to Kansas. He left an account of his pilgrimage. It symbolized the work of the Diocese of Northern Indiana to account for acts of racism in its past.
Episcopal News Service:
Consecration of Bishop Douglas Sparks, 25 June 2016, Trinity English Lutheran Church, Fort Wayne