Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Bible SchoolSuperintendent's Letter, 1913

The following letter and some stern directives are taken directly from the 1913 edition of the Trinity Presbyterian Church Directory. The Directory also included a letter of welcome and encouragement from the Pastor, John Burns as well as financial information about the congregation, a complete Bible School directory, and advertisements from local businesses some of which are included here.

We talk quite a bit as a congregation about how difficult it is in these days to encourage families to find time to get their children to church because of overloads of school work, sporting activities and all of the other things that take up the precious moments of our modern lives. As you read the letter below you will see that almost 100 years ago the church was saying the exact same things to parents that we say today: if you want to encourage your children in their faith you need to lead by example, to educate yourself, to participate in the worship and mission of a congregation and to make living a Christlike life a priority for your entire family. Those lessons are just as valuable if not more than what children might learn in their Sunday School class.


Every boy or girl ought to have a religious training such as the Bible School gives. The object of the Bible School teaching is the formation of Christian character. Its influence will help to make our boys and girls better prepared for the battles of life. Every child has a religious instinct born in him and if that instinct is not brought out in the child by a proper religious training either in the home or Bible School, but is permitted to die, then that boy or girl will have a hard fight in life, with temptations and evil on every side to lure him into a life of sin.

It behooves all parents to encourage their children in anything that is for the betterment of character and true citizenship. One of the best ways to encourage our young folks to attend Bible School is to attend ourselves. We cannot expect our children to go if we do not. In these days the Sunday School has been making its appeal to the older folks and so we call it our Bible School. We believe the Bible School is a place for the training of the old as well as the young. Most of the men high in public life are or have been workers in the Bible School. Men like President Wm. McKinley, Benjamin Harrison, his grandfather Wm. Henry Harrison, Theo. Roosevelt, Justice John M. Harlan, Secretary Leslie M. Shaw, and scores of others have found their place in the work of the Bible School.

We have classes for everyone and cordially invite all the people of this community to come and meet with us. We will help you and you will help us. Our teachers are all hard workers and will give you the best instruction. Anyone coming into our school on Sunday morning will find it a very busy place—a place where the teaching of the Bible and the uplifting of humanity are foremost. "I was glad when they said unto me: Let us go into the House of the Lord."

And from the end of the Church Directory…

Please notify the pastor when any change of address occurs.
Habitual absence from church or from four consecutive Communion Services without good reason will be regarded by the session as just cause for dropping your name from the church roll.
Let everyone be faithful in attendance, and loyal and devoted to the Master and His church.

Your Pastor desires our church to be a Praying, Bible Reading, Giving, Working, Hospitable Church, with a Family Altar in every home, and every member a true Christian. Will you do your part to make it such a church?

I will do nothing that -will hinder my becoming Christ-like or my neighbor becoming Christlike. I will make it the all absorbing purpose of my life to do everything I can to help myself to become Christlike and to help my neighbor to become Christlike. I shall have tune, talents, energy, money, to spend only for that which will directly or indirectly advance God's kingdom in my life and in the lives of my fellow men.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Guidelines for Membership by Pastor Rebecca

For many generations of Presbyterians, a mark of a healthy congregation was the vibrancy of its Presbyterian Women's organization.

Sunnyside had a long standing and effective PW group. Unfortunately, like so many things in life, it came to an end and was disbanded in 2003. People have different ideas about why PW's all over the denomination struggle two of which are the equality gained for women in the ministry and leadership roles of the congregation over the past 50 years and the necessity and desire for many women to work outside of the home.

It's hard to say really what the factors are, but they are most likely linked to some of the same reasons that so many churches are in decline as well.

As we get close to our Conference on the Past, I wanted to share with you a set of guidelines given to all Presbyterian Women pre 1980's so that they could understand their work, their mission, and their calling to be compassionate leaders in the church.

While old models of Presbyterian Women's organizations might not work for today's church, their values and priorities continue to be the ones that we value. Enjoy!


The heart of the program of United Presbyterian Women lies in the local association. Program planning must be suited to the particular needs of each situation so that the women of the church may become meaningfully involved in ministry and mission where they live.

The program of the woman's association of UPW should guide women into a fuller acceptance of responsible church membership demonstrated by a readiness for service and a wise use of time and talent.

The program should guide women to a deeper understanding of the changing nature of all communities, a re-evaluation of what it means to be a healthy community and a commitment to participate in handling such communities.

The program of the association should guide women toward an understanding of rapid change and the need for building a world community of interdependent nations acting in responsible partnership for the good of all mankind.

The recommended structure for UPW seeks to relate the study and involvement-action program of the women's association to the study and action in which the other laymen in the church are involved and to stimulate involvement-action among the total laity of the church.

It is assumed that the entire membership will meet for fellowship, inspiration, opportunities to share the experiences or to receive motivation for study and involvement, to know the general mission of the UP church and to under gird the work of the three program agencies (National Missions, Ecumenical Missions and Relations, and Christian Education) through their giving and their prayers.

It is assumed that the association will provide opportunities for its membership to study in assigned circles and in groups which come together for short or long termed periods of study and which may then dismiss to assume another aspect of the association's program.

The circle chairman has a great opportunity and responsibility for leadership. In the close fellowship of the circle it is possible to get to know the women well enough to see their needs and their possibilities, to help them participate in different ways and so develop abilities they themselves may not have realized they had.

Her concern for the growth of the women of her circle, her understanding of them, their needs and interests, her commitment to the purpose of United Presbyterian Women, will be reflected in the members. Her enthusiasm and personal joy in service will encourage and arouse her circle members to greater interest and service.

Her loyalty to the association as a whole, rather than to her particular circle, will result in increased interest in and attendance at the association meetings.
The circle chairman is an administrative officer of the association, elected by the association. She is a member of the executive committee, bringing to it the thinking and concerns of the circle. She carries promptly to the circle meeting the actions and plans of the executive committee as they make plans that really touch the lives of members. She is constantly on the alert for potential leaders to recommend to the nominating committee.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Sunnyside's Past and Sunnyside's Future by Pastor Rebecca

In his sermon this past Sunday, Jamie refered to a history of Sunnyside that was written in commemoration of our 100th Anniversary. A part of that same book that was created were letters solicited from former pastors of the congregation. The letter we are posting this week comes from Ted Greenhoe (pictured with his wife here) who served Sunnyside for 8 years starting in 1937.

Our Conference on the Past (October 10th) will help us to identify the things that have been valued by our congregation over its life in this place. It is hard not to chuckle when you read Rev. Greenhoe's letter. For all of the things that have changed in the world around us, so much about Sunnyside, at least to me, seems to have remained the same.

December 19, 1969

Dear Ira,

I have your letter of December 9 regarding the one hundredth anniversary of Sunnyside Church that is coming up next year, Let me be one of the first to congratulate the congregation and the officers of Sunnyside upon reaching their maturity of one hundred years.

In answer to your request regarding my first impressions of Sunnyside when I came in 1937…

Louis Schleiger was named Chairman of the Pulpit Nominating Committee after the resignation of The Reverend Dirk Middents. One day in the fall of 1936, I received a telephone call from Louis Schleiger asking me if I would become the pastor of Sunnyside Church. The committee had unsuccessfully solicited other men prior to calling me and were now ready to accept me, sight unseen, because I had been recommended by one of the Synod staff people. It was both unusual and pleasant to have a chairman of a pulpit nominating committee invite me, on behalf of the entire committee to be the pastor of a church which I had never seen, and of course, none of the committee had ever seen me. The committee wanted me to come to the church at my earliest convenience and preach a candidating sermon… I said I would be glad to come to Sunnyside and look-at the church, and then determine whether I felt I had the qualifications for the work that needed to be done. I made what seemed to be a long trip from a rural community in southern Indiana to South Bend.

After visiting the church I was then invited to preach a sermon. There were forty people, who attended the Service of Worship on that Sunday morning. One of the women on the way out of church said to me, “l hope you will come to Sunnyside to be our pastor, but If I were you I wouldn't come. There isn’t much future here" This was not altogether encouraging to me, but in the afternoon I met with a few of the officers of the church, including Webster Gray, Joseph Shafer, Charles Becker, Fred Lebaugh and the chairman, Louis Schleiger. They convinced me that the church had great possibilities and they felt so strongly that I was qualified for the position. I went home and reported to my wife that I had a strong feeling that this was a call of God. We gave it serious thought and prayer for several weeks and finally decided to accept their call to become the pastor at $1200.00 per annum which included a rented house.

We did not come to Sunnyside until after Easter of 1937. That, spring in South Bend was cold and wet, but the enthusiasm of the little group that comprised the church was warm and inspiring. It wasn’t long before we counted 50 in the congregation; then 60; and before summer vacation began, we reached the high peak of 100 in attendance.

When I was seriously considering the call to Sunnyside, I wrote to Dr. Baillie who was pastor of the First Presbyterian Church and asked him for an appraisal of the Sunnyside opportunity. He replied saying that if a man didn't mind wearing out a lot of shoe leather (which was his way of saying "calling on the people is essential) that he believed Sunnyside church had a real future. I was determined to wear out shoe leather, and I did. From the very first Sunday that we spent at Sunnyside until the time we left eight years later, there was not a doubt but what we had heard the call of God. The congregation responded in a most generous and gracious way.

The budget of the church for the year 1939 was $3000.00, a part of which was for benevolences. But that $3000.00 represented some real sacrificial giving on the part of a small group that remained loyal to the church during the difficult years of the depression. There was never a lack of volunteerism on the part of the members of Sunnyside. Hardly a one said "no" to the invitation of the pastor to teach a Sunday School class or to sponsor one of the youth groups, or to assist with Boy Scouts, or to manage a Softball or basketball team.

Early in 1940 we established a youth church worship service. The service was broadcast over the South Bend radio station. It became a very popular program both in terms of the radio audience, and in the response of our young people. We had large public school choirs and church youth choirs who visited our church and participated in the services of worship. Through this medium of the youth church we attracted many families of the city to our church. This was before television. The young people were very excited about broadcasting the services

Needless to say our ministry at Sunnyside was an exceedingly happy one and we deeply regretted leaving a congregation that had meant so much to us through eight years.

The thing I remember most about Sunnyside and appreciated the best was the joyous cooperative spirit that prevailed. People took pleasure in doing the Lord's work through the church.

God bless you and good wishes as you begin the second century of witnessing for Christ in South Bend. In these days when so many churches are down keep Sunnyside UP!

The Rev. Theodore M Greenhoe

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Building a Church by Pastor Rebecca

As we move towards our Conference on the Past on October 10th, the Stepping Stones team has been doing research on the history of both South Bend and Sunnyside. The two intersected at the beginning of the 20th Century when JM Studebaker committed funds and land to help build what would become the Sunnyside Presbyterian Church that we know today.

Below is a letter that he sent to the men of the church after speaking in worship on a Sunday morning:

June 23, 1916

My dear Sir:

It was published that I was to speak at Trinity Presbyterian Church on Sunday morning last, at 10:45 a.m. I had been ill with a severe cold and confined to my house for a week, but I made a special effort to be with you, and of course, expected to see a very full house. To my utter surprise and disappointment I found very few men there, and so I requested your pastor to give me the names and addresses of those who were not present, which counted up to 46. Naturally I formed the impression that the men that stayed away were not in favor of building a new church and were not willing to make some sacrifices to get it and felt that the old church was good enough for them. Now in order to satisfy myself on this question I am sending each and every one of you this letter, and I shall ask you to reply on the same sheet and return it in the enclosed stamped envelope.

1. Why were you not in church on Sunday morning?
2. Do you conscientiously approve of building a new church?
3. Are you willing to make personal sacrifices in order to get a new church? That sacrifice means that you should do all in your power and ability to give what you can towards the building of a new church.
4. Do you approve or disapprove of building the new church on the corner of Washington and Frances?
5. Do you approve or disapprove of changing the name of Trinity church to Sunnyside?
6. Will you pledge yourself to do all you can in support of the new church?
7. Do you expect to retain your membership in this church?

Now I shall expect and answer from your. Please remember that the interest that I am taking in this is for the good of yourself and your family and is for the interest I take in God's work, as I believe that a new church would give you and incentive to do better Christian work.

Hoping I will have a prompt answer, I am

Sincerely yours,
JM. Studbaker

Sunnyside has built physically may times in our history, most recently just 5 years ago. This Stepping Stones journey that we are on is about building a church in a different way, but many of Mr. Studebaker's questions may still apply: What does it mean for each of us to be committed to sacrifice on behalf of Sunnyside's ministry? What does it mean to be a church in this neighborhood? What does it mean for each of us to call ourselves Sunnysiders today?

Save the date, October 10th, to learn more about Sunnyside's history and how it might shape our future!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

The Potter and the Clay by Barb Wirt

We continue in our attempt to discern God's will, God's direction, for our future through scripture. Today we traveled with the prophet Jeremiah to the Potter's House. There we found the potter reworking an earthen vessel that he felt was marred.

With a reminder that God is the potter and we are the clay we considered how God is reworking, reshaping us as individuals and as a congregation at Sunnyside.

We acknowledge that the earthen vessel of our lives at times has felt marred - maybe even cracked.

We compared the "doom and gloom" message of the Old Testament with the message of "love and grace" in the New Testament. Acknowledging that both are an important element of our faith heritage.

At the Potter's House Jeremish has a visual lesson in how the potter can shape and reshape the clay.

In the same way God,the master potter, can shape and reshape God's people.

While the skill of the potter can improve the outcome of even inferior clay, we who are made in God's own quality image need to remain pliable to the molding of the master potter's will.

This pliability may become more difficult as we grow older and more set in our beliefs.

Changes are evident in the neighborhood surrounding Sunyside. The demolition of the former St, Joseph Medical Center buildings are a notable example. What new areas of co-operation and ministry does that call us to?

The Stepping Stones discussions havel led us to voices of inquiry regarding new ways that God might be calling us as a congregation.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Jeremiah 18 The Potter and the Clay by Pastor Rebecca

My mother still has bowls in her house that I made in the high school pottery class, I took my senior year. I loved the concept of being a potter, loved working with the clay and loved creating something beautiful and functional from a lump of dirt.

While we learned many styles of pottery, my absolute favorite was working with the potter's wheel. The most important step in starting a pot on the wheel is throwing it on the wheel and getting it centered each time. I was never very good at this part. I was great at pulling it and shaping it, but never had the upper body strength that it took to get it perfectly centered on the wheel.

I will never forget calling over my art teacher, a burly man with huge strong hands, to ask him to center my pot. I know it was not the case, but he did it with such ease that it seemed as though the clay saw him comming and moved itself into the center in anticipation of his touch. I spent so much time pushing and pressing on it without sucess and my teacher could just gently press into the pot to the perfect spot.

I understood that he was stronger than me and had thrown hundreds more pots than I had ever done, and so it was a moment of grace for me that he was always willing to give me help when I needed it.

This image of the Potter and the Clay in Jeremiah is an ancient yet timeless one for God's ability to shape and center the world which God has made. I always like to remember my art teacher when I read this passage from Jeremiah and I consider a God who with the slightest effort can right the world, can center the pot. The world moves in anticipation of the movement of the spirit, just as the clay seemed in move in anticipation of my art teacher.

As we do this work of discernment and transformation, we should remember that the work of centering the clay, of focusing our ministry is not ours alone. We are encouraged to call the spirit over to help us out, knowing that it is the effortless work of God that will guide us. We will push and pull, shape and create, but it is God who will center our creation.