Having served at two churches in Indiana, Damon Spurgeon said he never really wanted to leave his home state.
God, however, called him to go to neighboring Ohio to lead the congregation at a small Nazarene church.
While it was a good experience for him, Spurgeon said ever since he was there, he wanted to be back in his hometown of Seymour.
“My dad died in 2012, and since then when we moved to Ohio, my mom passed away, my aunt passed away — my one and only aunt — so now, it’s just my sister and I. That’s it and just cousins and stuff,” the 50-year-old said.
After serving as pastor of Peter’s Switch Church of the Nazarene in Seymour for 15 years, Keith Ross decided to retire, and his last service was June 5.
That opened the door for Spurgeon to come back home, and he took advantage of the opportunity and was offered the job as pastor.
His first day leading worship services was June 26.
“It’s nice to be home. I missed home,” he said.
“I think I needed to leave. I always appreciated Indiana, but I left Indiana and I think I needed to learn a lot of things, and I was given a place to go minister and learn my trade, learn my craft, learn how to preach in a safe spot,” Spurgeon said. “This place is wonderful. I’ve come into Peter’s Switch, I’ve come back home to Seymour and Jackson County with instant credibility because people know who I am.”
As he and his wife, Irishe, moved their belongings from Ohio to Seymour, people from The Point in Seymour and his former church, Columbus First Church of the Nazarene, helped.
“That’s just how much we were loved and cared for,” Spurgeon said. “They helped us move in, and so that was really nice. We’re glad to be home in Indiana.”
Growing up south of Reddington, Spurgeon was raised by a father who worked for Cummins and a mother who worked at a bank before becoming a stay-at-home mom for him and his sister, Danielle.
Going into his freshman year at Seymour High School, Spurgeon had to choose between football and music. Practices and concerts began conflicting, and he chose the latter since he was a singer and musician by trade.
One of the football coaches wasn’t in favor of his decision.
“At that point, I was like, ‘Football is not that important,’ and I just quit. I turned my pads in,” he said. “It was all about the church at that point, and I had no idea, but I think God was already starting to call me into ministry at that point anyway.”
On the first day of school that year, football coach Joe Goodman approached Spurgeon at his locker and asked him to come back and play. While he loved football, Spurgeon told Goodman he wanted to choose choir and God over the sport.
“There are all these seniors around me. Of course, I’m a freshman. He walked away, and they all clapped,” he said. “Joe Goodman and I had an awesome relationship from then on. He was my biggest supporter.”
The choir director at SHS then was Earl D. Prout, who the auditorium is named after today. Spurgeon was part of a quartet all four years of high school. He also went to football games and was one of the Owls’ biggest supporters, and he was on the student council.
He grew up attending Seymour First Church of the Nazarene, which later changed names and still today is known as The Point.
After graduating from SHS, he went to Olivet Nazarene University in Illinois and earned a religion degree with a music minor in 1994.
He was always happy to be part of “the singing church” since he loved music so much. Plus, his mother and sister both played piano and sang.
“They had choirs ever since we were little kids,” Spurgeon said. “In fact, I remember I was up singing solos in front of churches as early as 5. They saw my talent then. Some people in the preschool department saw I had rhythm.”
The church was — and still is — a big part of his life.
“Back in the day, Sunday morning, Sunday night, Wednesday night, every time the church was open, I was there,” he said. “There were such key people in my life. … They were just solid influences in my life. Even my neighbor growing up just south of Reddington, my whole neighborhood was full of people that all went to the church. I can name all of my neighbors. They all went to church, so if my parents didn’t go, they all picked me up and they took me.”
Eight days after marrying Irishe in 1994, they moved to Kansas City, Missouri, where Damon attended Nazarene Theological Seminary and earned his Master of Divinity in 1998.
They then were able to return to Indiana when one of Damon’s pastoral friends, Bryan Solomon, hired him as a youth pastor at First Church of the Nazarene in Vincennes. His focus was on youth, music and worship.
In 2004, Solomon was asked to become pastor at the Nazarene church in Columbus, which happened to be Irishe’s home church. In December that year, Damon transferred there as youth pastor.
“Before long, I was leading all of the worship and doing all of the youth work,” he said. “Eventually, I passed the youth stuff on, and I was doing all of the music, associate pastor work. I was kind of a jack of all trades.”
From 2005 to 2015, Damon was the Southwest Indiana District youth president for Nazarene Youth International. In that role, he helped oversee youth events, including teen Bible quizzing, lock-ins, district choir and church camps.
“Oh, we had a lot of fun,” he said. “We had a good time, just fun, just a lot of memories. You meet so many people.”
In 2013, Solomon retired, and another pastor took the helm.
Then in March 2016, Damon took his first job as a senior pastor at Dellroy Church of the Nazarene in a town of about 300 people southeast of Cleveland and Akron and not far from the Pennsylvania border.
While he was there, Damon said friends from his hometown often asked when he was coming back. He had a big presence on social media, and during the COVID-19 pandemic, his small church streamed services online. He said he was shocked to see people from Seymour and Columbus watching.
“I couldn’t believe how many people here were watching it,” he said. “Every Sunday, people from Columbus and Seymour were watching us. I was just shocked. In fact, I think there were probably more people that watched us here than did there. It made me want to come home even more in a lot of ways.”
Earlier this summer, Damon said he heard through the grapevine that Ross was retiring, and he feels fortunate to be the new leader of the church.
“This is my hometown. This is where I needed to be,” he said. “I just want to invest in this town. I want to invest in this church. These people are great.”
Irishe, meanwhile, landed a job teaching eighth grade at Northside Middle School in Columbus. When they were previously in that city, she was principal at Columbus Christian School.
Peter’s Switch has Sunday school at 9:30 a.m. and worship service at 10:30 a.m. A Hispanic church also meets there at 1 p.m. Sundays.
Vacation Bible school was in late July, and Damon said the Switch Kids program continues to travel around Seymour picking up kids on the church bus to bring back for food and a Bible lesson on Wednesday nights.
As pastor, he said his job is to help the church connect to God, members connect with each other and them to connect with the community.
“This church is pretty established,” he said. “I’m just amazed. They are very loving. They love each other, they love the pastor, they loved that former pastor, they loved their former pastors and they love me so far. I’m just so happy to be back.”
Name: Damon Spurgeon
Education: Seymour High School (1990); Olivet Nazarene University (religion degree with a music minor, 1994); Nazarene Theological Seminary (Master of Divinity, 1998)
Occupation: New pastor at Peter’s Switch Church of the Nazarene in Seymour
Family: Wife, Irishe Spurgeon