‘The Lord moves’ Pleasant Ridge
Sunday, May 23, was an extraordinary day for the 72 members and friends of the Pleasant Ridge United Methodist Church 3-1/2 miles south of Corydon.
First, the members had an emotional closing service in their old ‘country church,’ and then, after walking the blacktop in bright sunshine for about eight-tenths of a mile around a green pasture in which indifferent cattle grazed, they had a celebratory opening service in their new church.
The sign outside the new $550,000 building on S.R. 337 said, ‘The Lord is moving us in many ways. Ya’ll come along.’
Pastor Steve Smith served communion for the last time in the old tree-shaded building with the nice steeple, put up in 1859, one year before the Civil War started.
Pleasant Ridge, one of the oldest churches in Harrison County, traces its origins back to a meeting place or ‘class’ in 1838. That’s when the Rev. Isaac Ball organized the Kopp Class in the ‘Old Log School House,’ owned by ‘Old Father Kopp,’ said church historian Kay Owen. Pleasant Ridge grew out of the Kopp Class and became a United Brethren Church in 1858 and then a United Methodist Church in 1985.
Pastor Smith’s sermon that day was titled ‘The thrill of victory.’ Many people must have felt victorious because their building campaign, begun when land was purchased seven years ago, had finally reached fruition. (In fact, the congregation raised half the money for the project before construction, by Steve Hoehn, began last May.)
The members were full of precious memories on Sunday, memories of births and baptisms, weddings and funerals, church dinners and special services, picnics and apple-butter making.
There were so many memories that needed to be acknowledged that people were invited to write them down and put them in a basket. Three were drawn out to be read. All the written memories will be published later in a book.
The three who read were Iris Badger, Betty Harper and Rhonda Rowe, and their stories indicated that the Lord does indeed move in mysterious ways, said Owen.
There was no way that Harper could have predicted that her grandson, Steve Smith, 34, a nurse, would be called relatively late in his life to the ministry and that he would be called to … Pleasant Ridge.
Rowe said that 18 years ago, when she lived in Muncie, she visited Pleasant Ridge church with a friend. Back then, being from the big city, she thought the little country church was out in ‘the boonies.’
But there must have been something she liked about the boonies because, 10 years ago, she moved here. By that time, she had lost contact with her friend here, but she remembered how well she liked the atmosphere at that little country church. She started looking for one like it.
One day some friends asked her if she would like to help them water some flowers at their church and, you guessed it: It was Pleasant Ridge.
At about 10:30 a.m. Sunday, the old church bell pealed, and the congregation, led by building committee member Kenny Saulman and historian Owen, filed out of the front door and made their way down the county roads to S.R. 337, where deputy sheriffs had the road blocked temporarily.
Denny Badger and Bill Brown carried a large cross made of dogwood that had stood at the altar of the old church. At the new church, on ground purchased from neighbors Amzie and Lois Garbrough, building committee member Earl Hood introduced the oldest member, Jane Albin Heishman, 83, and two girls who were going to be baptized in the next few minutes in the new church, Shana Sprayberry and Krista Coburn. They cut the ribbon at the front door. Heishman had started going to Pleasant Ridge when she was six months old.
Rather than let the old church fall into disrepair, the members will soon tear it down, ‘with love and respect,’ as Pastor Smith’s mother-in-law, Donna Schneider, observed. She had gotten up at 5 a.m. in Evansville to drive here for the special events.
Lay leader (and financial secretary) Naomi Saulman said the old stained-glass windows will be removed from the old church and incorporated in the new. So will the church bell. The pulpit, communion table, and flower stands have all been refinished and replaced in the new worship center, along with the piano and organ.
To raise money, Pleasant Ridge had put 18 big solid ash pews (purchased in 1951) up for sale at $240 each. A man from Louisville bought 12. Two were kept for the Fellowship Hall in the basement, and one was practically given away to a generous cabinetmaker. Three are still for sale.
The service closed when everyone sang, ‘How Great Thou Art.’
Pleasant Ridge has its eye on the future and expects to get bigger. It has 72 members on its roll, perhaps 150 people attended the big move on Sunday. The new church can seat 194.