Seymour church celebrating 75 years during Sunday event

In 1904, the congregation of Rockford Methodist Episcopal Church launched a local mission program.

The activities soon turned into an effort culminating in creating a fund to aid the formation of a separate church congregation. The intent was to support a nearby infant church body.

Finally, a few families of the Methodist persuasion began meeting in the Peter’s Switch area just north of Seymour.

In September 1912, they organized into a congregational member of the Church of the Nazarene’s newly created denomination.

There was no regular pastor during the first few months, and those who came were always invited for short periods of time.

In December 1914, Samuel Walls accepted a request to hold an extended revival meeting. Preaching jointly with Henry Pearson, the special services brought in 37 new members. Pearson was from Seymour and remained in the pulpit for nearly 10 years.

After he left, the congregation continued its Bible study sessions. Sometimes, there would be preaching services to follow. All of the services were held in an abandoned schoolhouse, and they continued through 1945.

At the end of World War II, the schoolhouse was declared surplus and placed on the auction block by the federal government. J.H. Deats bought the building for $1,800 at a public auction for the growing congregation.

Following extensive renovation of the building to make it more functional for church services, C.C. Coolidge was called to conduct a two-week revival meeting. The evangelist opened the services Feb. 17, 1948, and the messages were so successful that the revival services were extended through the rest of the month.

Reorganization of the church congregation was completed Easter Sunday on March 28, 1948, with 40 new members.

Coolidge remained long enough to witness the eradication of the congregational debt and begin construction of the new parsonage.

In 1969, a new sanctuary, offices and an atrium to connect the two buildings were built. Later on, a carport and an all-purpose room were added onto the back.

Now, 75 years after its official opening as Peter’s Switch Church of the Nazarene, the congregation is celebrating a milestone.

The 75th anniversary celebration will start at 10 a.m. Sunday at the church, 9528 N. County Road 760E, Seymour. Current and former members are invited, two former pastors and current Pastor Damon Spurgeon will speak and music will be performed. A dinner will follow the service.

“I’m intertwining music, and we’re going to tell the history of the church that day and bring in some personal stories, celebrate victories, talk about God’s faithfulness and just have a big homecoming that day,” Spurgeon said.

For the pastor, there are three purposes in the service.

“No. 1 is this is just a reunion for people to get together,” he said. “This is a homecoming. This is a reunion. This is a homecoming for people that have moved away.”

Secondly, Spurgeon said there are many people in the community who used to come to the church and now don’t attend church for whatever reason.

“I want them to realize we’re still here and we’re still going strong,” he said. “It’s OK to welcome them back to say, ‘It’s OK to come home.’”

No. 3, Spurgeon said the church has had controversies over the years that resulted in people leaving, but deep down, they still knew Peter’s Switch was home.

“Even though they’ve set roots somewhere else, they still knew this was home,” he said. “Maybe they come back for that day and just realize this is home and just for them to realize ‘Hey, it’s safe for me to come back home. It’s OK to bury the hatchet. It’s OK for me to build a bridge. It’s OK to tear down that wall and come back home.’”

All three keynote speakers Sunday will follow the theme of “God’s faithfulness.”

“How he has been faithful to the church and how he has been faithful to us as individuals over the 75 years,” Spurgeon said.

Derl Keefer, who served as pastor from 1972 to 1976, will be one of the speakers.

“We were his first church from coming out of seminary,” Spurgeon said. “He was here when they celebrated 25 years. He was here 50 years ago. He’s coming back, and he’s going to be part of the celebration.”

Keefer is a retired district superintendent of the Church of the Nazarene and now lives in Three Rivers, Michigan.

“He went all the way through at the highest you can be without being a general,” Spurgeon said. “He’s a good guy.”

Keith Ross, who was pastor from 2007 to 2022, will speak, too. He’s retired and lives in Seymour. Since the church was established in 1948, he’s the longest-tenured pastor.

The music during the service will be based on the same theme. The group Lackey will perform.

“As teenagers or college kids, they had a group that they formed. They are coming back to lead worship that day, and they are coming from several different states,” Spurgeon said. “They are grown men now. Several of them are in ministry. In fact, the guy leading the music, he’s now a Wesleyan minister, and a lot of them are relatives of people in the church. Three of them are brothers.”

Spurgeon also said they are going to honor some key people for achievements with some surprise awards.

Peter’s Switch isn’t the only thing celebrating 75 years. Spurgeon said the Southwest Indiana District Church of the Nazarene was formed 75 years ago, too. Before that, Peter’s Switch had been part of the Chicago Central and Indianapolis districts.

In terms of stories to share about the church, Spurgeon said one involves Charlie and Helen Graham. Years ago when Charlie was helping with the teen department, he and his wife lived in Hayden. One spring, they challenged the kids that if they could get 300 people at the church one Sunday, he would walk from Hayden to the church — 12 miles — on Easter Sunday.

“All of those kids worked so hard to get all of their friends, all of their parents, everybody to come, and one Sunday, they did it. They got over 300 people to show up on a Sunday,” Spurgeon said.

The teens and youth workers spent the night before Easter at the Grahams’ house, and at 2:30 a.m. Easter Sunday, they walked country roads to get to Peter’s Switch. They arrived by 9 a.m., just in time for Sunday school at 9:30 a.m.

“That started a tradition for Charlie, and he did it for almost 20 years. Every Easter Sunday, he would walk from Hayden,” Spurgeon said.

Charlie also had a large storage facility near his home and would pack it with items he bought to give away to those in need and those who lose their home to a fire.

“He was almost like the local Red Cross for the area. He was really big on that,” Spurgeon said.

Charlie also went to carnivals and county fairs and played the basketball shooting game to win large prizes to give away to kids.

“He had the gift of knowing how to do it,” Spurgeon said of the game. “They would have to make him quit because he would win all of the big things.”

The Grahams now live at Hoosier Christian Village in Brownstown.

Another story involves Walter Graeflin, pastor of the church from 1984 to 1997. He had a vision of helping the family of a pastor in the church’s district at Christmastime.

“This church just buys those kids gifts and the family gifts and does a big (meal) and invites them to come and love on them some Sunday,” Spurgeon said. “We still do that. I made sure it happened last year, and we just had a board meeting and we decided we’re going to do it.”

If you go 

What: 75th anniversary celebration

When: 10 a.m. Sunday

Where: Peter’s Switch Church of the Nazarene, 9528 N. County Road 760E, Seymour

Who: Current and former members are invited