First Missionary Church Sign, 1905
By Stephanie Demorest g93, Director
On Saturday, September 11, 2021, First Missionary Church opened its doors to visitors for an open house event to celebrate their 100th Anniversary. Although the church began meeting prior to this in 1905, their first building structure at the corner of Rudisill Blvd. and S. Wayne Ave. was erected in 1921. So, 2021 officially marks 100 years for the church of meeting formally in their building.
“New” Church Building in 1921 and Building Cornerstone Today
The anniversary event featured an insightful historical display in the church’s fellowship hall that highlighted the pastoral leadership and the church’s various missionaries around the world as well as local specialized ministries of the church, such as Children’s Summer Music Workshop, since its beginning. Two of our own Fort Wayne alumni, Susi Jones g71 and Susie Steiner fs72, along with the help of Dr. Jay Platte g69, created this marvelous display, which included photos and biographies as well as a video presentation. The wooden sign shown in the photo above was just one of the items set up for viewing.
Schultz Chapel in 1905
In the earliest days of the church’s assembly, Sunday services were held in Schultz Hall, on the campus of the Bible Training School in Fort Wayne, just across the street from the eventual site of the church building. The church grew out of the school that had been started in Bethany, Ohio, in 1904 and that had moved to Fort Wayne, Indiana, in 1905. As might be expected then, the Bible Training School leadership played key roles in pastoring and teaching the congregation in those early days of First Missionary Church’s history. Throughout the decades to come, this close relationship continued between First Church and the Fort Wayne campus, which came to be known as Fort Wayne Bible Institute, Fort Wayne Bible College, Summit Christian College, and finally Taylor University Fort Wayne.
In fact, this overlap in leadership continued all the way up to the campus closure in May 2009. To see the specific connections between the two entities, please click here for a thorough presentation developed by Dr. Jay Platte for our Alumni Center Open House, held in conjunction with First Missionary Church’s event on September 11th.
Many of our alumni remember attending First Missionary during their time as students on campus. The ease of such a short walking distance to church encouraged this! And several of our alumni stayed on as faithful members of this congregation. Some of our alumni remember meeting chapel in the sanctuary of the church during the TUFW years. For so many of us, First Missionary Church was an extension of the campus as part of our college memories. I particularly remember a post-student experience of standing on the stage in the sanctuary to give the first-year Greek award in my second year of teaching Greek students in the Spring 2009 awards chapel. I was one of those students who attended the church while living on campus, and feel like I have returned to my own roots by later teaching at the college and now directing the alumni association from our office housed in the church building.
When visitors came to First Missionary recently for their milestone anniversary celebration, they were welcomed into the Alumni Center office to view the presentation referenced above and to learn more about the mission of our organization to care, connect, and celebrate our Fort Wayne alumni. Our intertwined history is a long one, and we are grateful to First Missionary Church for including us in their special celebration!