Archive for Thursday, April 29, 2004

Ives relies on family, tradition for first 100 years

April 29, 2004

The congregation at Ives Chapel United Methodist Church has never been a very large one, but it's been strong -- one based on tradition and family.

"It's just a small country church, is what it is," Dolores Kalb said. "But kids from the original families keep coming and that's the way it's just kept going. The nucleus just kind of stays."

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And that's how it's been for a century now. The Baldwin church, located at 1018 Miami St., celebrated its 100th anniversary Sunday with many of its members and former members in attendance. The day was celebrated with a church service, a dinner and the release of 100 balloons, one for each year of the church's existence.

"It was a very special day," Ives pastor Kathy Symes said.

Ives Chapel began in 1904 after the building was purchased by Capt. Charles Ives, who also owned the Ives-Hartley Lumber Co.

The building had originally been the Presbyterian Church in Media, but because there was no regular pastor, and many of its members had died, the church closed and was sold.

Ives purchased the building after Media had been incorporated with Baldwin and deeded it to a chartered board of Methodist trustees.

"He wanted a place where he could go and not have to get dressed up," Kalb, the church historian, said. "He didn't want to have to gussie up to go to church. At least, that's the story I've always been told."

The charter for the Methodist church was filed with the Secretary of State Jan. 7, 1904, for a term of 99 years.

Ives Chapel has had more than 30 pastors in its 100-year existence, the first several of whom were Baker University students who didn't stay more than a year or two.

Despite changing pastors every couple of years in the early 1900s, the church thrived. Records indicate 18 members made up the congregation in 1904. But over the years, both the congregation and the church building grew.

In the 1950s, the church expanded with the addition of a basement with a small kitchen.

"We were proud of that basement," Kalb said.

In the early 1980s, new rooms, including a larger basement and kitchen, were added. Ives Chapel completed the construction of additional rooms about three years ago.

Kalb said though the church has made a number of improvements to the building, the congregation has always found ways to finance the construction itself.

"Anything we've wanted to do, the people always came up with the money for it," she said. "We've never taken a loan out for anything."

The addition of the basement and kitchen, Kalb said, aided in the start of an important tradition at Ives -- church dinners.

She said the annual chicken noodle dinners began after the construction of the basement, soon followed by the annual pancake suppers, which always fall on Groundhog's Day.

"People just love to come to those," she said.

The church also has salad suppers, dinners after funerals and the occasional special church or community dinner.

"The fellowship of meals is something very important to the church," Symes said. "That fellowship is just very important."

But the church congregation does more than just eat.

Another important tradition at Ives Chapel is the missionary program. Around 1910, Ives sent its first missionaries, a married couple, to Korea. Since then, the church has continued sending missionaries around the world, including its possibly most notable one, Phoebe Emery, who went to India in 1916 and spent the next 30 years working in Indian villages.

"We are a very mission-oriented church," Symes said.

Both Kalb and Symes believe Ives has survived 100 years because of the type of church it is, and the close-knit and strong congregation it has.

"They like the small church," Symes said. "It's just a family atmosphere."

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