Faith & heritage


Heritage has led to Trinity United Methodist Church celebrating its 175th anniversary.

Since the church formed in the Rockford area of Jackson County, later merged with other churches and moved near downtown Seymour, members of the congregation have kept it going strong for several generations.

“When I first joined this church, and that was 48 years ago, everybody was related to everybody,” Judy Wichman said. “It’s still somewhat that way. We have a lot of people in this church that are related to other people that came to this church because of their family and their heritage.”

Those families developed friendships, which helped the church thrive.

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“If you have somebody that’s sick in your family or hurt, there’s somebody there to be with you or to pray for you,” Wichman said. “It’s a very caring church.”

Wichman is on the six-member committee that formed more than a year ago to plan a 175th anniversary celebration. Several activities already have been conducted.

One of the highlights is at 9:30 a.m. Sunday, when the public is invited to listen to Indiana United Methodist Bishop Dr. Michael Coyner preach.

“I think he’ll be saying something about our anniversary, maybe challenging us to move forward, not just stay in the past,” the Rev. Mike Seaney said.

Seaney said members of the congregation have been asked to come dressed in old-fashioned clothing if possible, and there will be lunch after the service.

From May to August, four previous members who are now in Christian service — Joe Bottorff, Kathy Barger, Doug Heiman and James Higdon — returned to preach at the church. Also, Barbara Dixon, author of “German Methodism,” spoke in April.

Wichman created two sanctuary banners for the 175th anniversary, and those include a special logo created by Brian “Buck” Rogers.

Also to commemorate the anniversary, the church has compiled and sold a cookbook, laminated prayer partner bookmarks and T-shirts were created and given out, new pictorial directories were created and included the church’s history, church pens were purchased and handed out and Christmas ornaments with an image of the church will be offered for purchase.

The church also conducted a balloon launch in August with cards inside of them to return when they are found.

The church’s roots trace back to 1840 when the Rev. John Kisling, a German Methodist preacher, left his home in Decatur County to preach to German settlers in Rockford.

A congregation was formed there with 12 families at the beginning and became part of the Rockford Mission, which included St. Peter’s Church near Reddington (later known as Ackeret’s Chapel) and St. John’s Church (located in a German settlement four miles southwest of Seymour).

In 1859, the name of the mission was changed to the Seymour circuit. By 1864, a Sunday school was organized by Louis Schneck. A church building was then erected in Seymour in 1869 as German Methodist Episcopal Church.

From 1874 to 1908, the Seymour circuit consisted of one pastor preaching at St. Peter’s, St. Paul’s (formerly St. John’s) and German Methodist Episcopal churches.

In 1912, Ackeret’s Chapel and St. Paul’s Church were united with German Methodist Episcopal Church and changed its name to Trinity Methodist Episcopal Church.

On May 24, 1922, ground was broken on a new church building at South Chestnut Street between South and Brown streets. The cornerstone was laid Aug. 20, and the new church building was dedicated Dec. 2, 1923, with membership at 265.

The Central German Conference, based in Cincinnati, chose to conduct its yearly meetings at Trinity in 1924 and 1927. But by 1933, it dissolved, and Trinity transferred to the Indiana Methodist Episcopal Church Conference. Denomination mergers in 1939 and 1968 changed the church’s name to Trinity United Methodist Church.

The sanctuary features stained-glass windows created by Von Gerichten Art Glass Co. of Columbus, Ohio. The south windows include portrayals of five Old Testament men; the west windows depict Jesus in the center flanked by Gospel writers Matthew, Mark, Luke and John; and the north windows display the Parable of the Sower.

There also are more than 100 different symbolic pictures found in most of the church’s windows on both floors.

The church’s pipe organ, obtained from M.P. Moeller Co. of Hagerstown, Maryland, is one of only two in the world. The organist comes from Bloomington each week to play during services.

In 1982, renovations were completed on the building, which revamped the Sunday school classrooms and added two new offices and air conditioning.

Then in 2009, renovations were made to the offices, restrooms and nursery, and an elevator was added for access to all four floors.

During his 10 years as pastor, Seaney said the church hasn’t grown as much in numbers as it has in activity, especially related to missions. Members have made three trips to Red Bird Missionary Conference in southeastern Kentucky during his tenure.

“Its purpose is to help the people in Appalachia in southeastern Kentucky to survive because they have very few resources,” he said.

A Methodist mission started there in the 1920s, and several churches have gone there each year to help rehabilitate homes and help with the school.

“You just build it as well as you can, you repair it and you get to know the people, and the people are cool. They are really fascinating,” Seaney said. “They have neat stories to tell about their families and their history, and you can understand why they don’t want to leave their home area.”

The church’s families also have had a big impact on the Seymour area, and several went on to become ministers, Seaney said.

It’s important to honor the past and continue on that heritage, he said.

“We just expect this church to continue to be a big part of the community,” he said. “A lot of people are involved in the community out of this congregation to help in whatever way they can.”

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What: 175th anniversary service

Where: Trinity United Methodist Church, 333 S. Chestnut St., Seymour

When: 9:30 a.m. Sunday

Who: The public is invited to listen to Indiana United Methodist Bishop Dr. Michael Coyner preach; people are asked to come dressed in old-fashioned clothing if possible; lunch will follow the service

Information: 812-523-3072


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