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St. Paul's Episcopal Church, Gas City (defunct)
St. Paul's Episcopal Church, Gas City, Grant County, was founded as an unorganized mission by Welsh immigrants in the fall of 1892 during the natural gas exploration boom in north central Indiana. "People were so sure that the supply of gas was inexhaustible that the street lights burned all day," wrote the editor of a diocesan newsletter. It was a time of wild prosperity and speculation. Many of the mission's earliest members were glass and tinplate workers (the town had fifteen glass factories at one time). J. H. Rogers, superintendent of the Morewood Tin Plate Factory, allowed church members to meet initially in its annealing room, and meetings were also held in the Opera House in Gas City as well as at Ward's Hall and in the Methodist church in nearby Jonesboro.
Charles Maliphant, a native of Llanelle, Wales, and a manager with the Morewood Tin Plate Factory, lent his strong support for the church, which was formally organized as a mission of Gethsemane, Marion, in 1894 under the leadership of missionary the Rev. Daniel J. Davies. Bishop David Buel Knickerbacker laid the cornerstone for a frame church building at West South H Street and Rogers Avenue, a site across from the Waterworks that was readily accessible to people from Jonesboro. Maliphant chose the name for the mission, St. Paul's, after his former parish in Wales. The ground on which the church initially stood was donated by the Gas City Land Company. In 1898, the Morewood Tin Plate Company sold its business to the American Tin Plate Company, and J. H. Rogers, the parish's most active layman and a major contributor, moved away and thereby hindered St. Paul's growth.
When the gas wells in central Indiana dried up, many other industries closed their doors as well. The Rev. Stephen W. Wilson, one of the most active early priests, removed in 1901, but praised the "spirit of harmony" of the mission and commented on how "pleasant and happy" his tenure had been. When the glass factories closed, Gas City became a ghost town in 1902. Archdeacon George Paull Torrence of Gethsemane, Marion, maintained services and sent his assistant, the Rev. William Wirt Raymond, to conduct services in 1903. Raymond wrote in the register, "The singing of the Choir, about 16 voices, chiefly Welsh, at Easter time, was a service of Praise rarely equaled in resonance. Mr. Owen Davies was at the time director of the Choir."
The church continued to struggle with the worsening economy, however. In 1909, Torrence reported that "the Tin Plate Mill is regarded by most people as a thing of the past, and the glass factory is slow in starting..." In May 1911, church leaders decided to move the church to its present location at 121 E. South A Street because of its more central location. Bishop White arrived in the fall to dedicate it.
St. Paul's remained a mission for many years. The Rev. William Sheridan, a future bishop, served the church as well as Gethsemane in Marion from 1944 to 1947 and treasured his time there. In 1947, the church became an independent parish, and the Rev. Gerald Lewis arrived as rector. The congregation persevered through difficult times, and in the 1950s, a considerable amount of repair work occurred, including replacement of the floor.
In 1956, the Rev. Richard A. Curtis arrived, and the congregation began work on a parish hall in 1957, called Norris Hall after Ernest Norris, who donated the funds. Curtis was a native Hoosier, born in Marion, Indiana, and had studied privately for the priesthood under Bishop Mallett. The Rev. Leslie Howell arrived as rector in 1961 and stayed ten years until having to resign for poor health. In 1972, under the leadership of the Rev. Michael Lynch, a Sunday school wing was added, and three years later, the church installed a free-standing altar. In 1978, the Rev. Arnold Hoffman was ordained and made rector, remaining until 1981.
A popular rector was the Rev. Donald Raih, who arrived in 1983. He began an interfaith dialog with members of Grace Lutheran Church the same year. An innovative pastor, he initiated a Faith Alive program in 1985, but in 1986, with parish funds dwindling, Raih began a joint venture of ministry with St. Stephen's Episcopal Church in Elwood, serving as rector of both parishes concurrently. Elwood was located in the Diocese of Indianapolis, and he was the only priest in the state whose ministry spanned two dioceses.
With dwindling membership in the twenty-first century, St. Paul's closed its doors for good in 2019.
Daniel J. Davies, 1895-1897
Thomas George McGonigle, 1897-1898
Stephen Warren Wilson, 1899-1901
Henry Stephen Streeter, 1901-1902
Duncan Convers, 1902
Ernest Douglas Martin, deacon, 1904-1906
George Paull Torrence, 1911
Howard Russell White, 1910-1912
Forrest Bowley Breckinridge Johnston, 1912-1931
Henry Lewis Ewan, 1931-1939
Sydney Hugh Croft, 1939-1942
Samuel Hanna Norman Elliott, 1942-1943
William C. R. Sheridan, 1944-1947
Gerald H. Lewis, 1947-1956
Richard Arthur Curtis, 1956-1960
Leslie C. Howell, 1961-1971
Michael A. Lynch 1971-1977
Arnold Roy Hoffman, 1978-1982
Donald Raih, 1982-1992
Frank H. King, 1993-1997
Judith Culpepper, 2002-2007
Margaret Harker, 2007-2010
Rebecca Ferrell Nickel, 2012
Norman L. Morford, 2013-2015
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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.
Episcopal News Service:
Consecration of Bishop Douglas Sparks, 25 June 2016, Trinity English Lutheran Church, Fort Wayne