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St. Peter's Episcopal Church, Rensselaer (defunct)
The first attempt to open a mission in Rensselaer occurred in February 1917, when Archdeacon Robert J. Long began monthly services in town, but his efforts were unsuccessful. More than forty years later, Bishop Reginald Mallett succeeded in organizing a diocesan mission called St. Peter's on 12 February 1961 as part of a larger missionary outreach effort that also included new missions at Angola, Butler, and Monticello. At the time of its founding, the bishop held services in the public library with the assistance of Fr. Leslie Howell. There were 21 people present at the initial meeting, including 13 communicants and eight children. The Rev. Hugh Edsall, who took charge of the mission soon afterward, presented seven for confirmation on 5 December 1961.
The congregation broke ground for the present edifice on 24 July 1965 under vicar the Rev. Thomas F. Stoll with Bishop Walter Klein leading the service. On 17 October, the cornerstone was laid with the Rev. George B. Wood of Trinity, Fort Wayne, as the officiant. The finished church, located at Grace and Melville streets in Rensselaer, was dedicated by Bishop Klein on 19 February 1966 with Stoll and several other priests in attendance. The brick building was designed by Lee Brockway, a South Bend architect, and the stained glass windows were crafted in the studio of J. Winterrich of Cleveland.
In 1987, the Rev. Dale Hathaway became its first resident vicar and brought much-needed stability for a period of time. When Susan Jo Blubaugh was called as vicar, she was ordained to the priesthood by Bishop Gray in 1992, the first female ordination to occur in the diocese. She remained as vicar until 2008. Membership began to decline after her departure, when the church could no longer afford a priest. In 2019, the congregation made the decision to close.
Ordination of Rev. Susan Jo Blubaugh, 8 July 1992, part 1
Ordination of Rev. Susan Jo Blubaugh, 8 July 1992, part 2
Television news story about Rev. Susan Jo Blubaugh, 8 July 1992, part 1
Television news story about Rev. Susan Jo Blubaugh, 8 July 1992, part 2
Hugh Crichton Edsall, 1961-1963
Raymond Ray, 1964-1965
Thomas Fothergill Stoll, 1965-1966
Robert Michael Darrow, 1966-1967
William J. Fleener, 1967-1968
Richard A. Hayes, 1968-1970
Forrest Bedford Clark, 1970-1973
Paul John Tracy, 1981-1986
Lloyd Holifield, 1986-1987
Dale Caldwell Hathaway, 1987-1990
Susan Jo Blubaugh, 1992-2008
(Senior Wardens are listed as administrators)
Rev. Frank Warthan (supply), 2015-2016
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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