I was 5 years old when my folks bought an 80 acre farm in southern Indiana. While there were other factors, one of the reasons was that they wanted my sister and me to attend a smaller school rather than one of the large Indianapolis schools. I grew up on that farm and it is the only childhood home I remember. My mother was a second generation member of the Church of the Nazarene, so she sought out a Nazarene church for us to attend. Charlestown was 17 miles away, and there was a thriving Nazarene church there. Dad didn’t go to church at that time, but we became “every service members” at Charlestown Nazarene. Mom had roots in Indianapolis Westside and Eastside Nazarene churches, but so far as we kids were concerned, Charlestown was our church. From my point of view now, we were “only” there for 13 years. However, those were my growing up years, from 5 years old through high school graduation. Charlestown Nazarene was where I settled things with the Lord. When I was 16 I preached my first sermon to a kind, gentle, and supportive Wednesday night prayer meeting crowd. I was president of the youth group that met before Sunday night services. Everyone came, teens and grandmas alike, as we presented a program from Aldersgate Teen Topics. I played my trombone on Sunday nights, sang in the choir on Sunday mornings, and testified in Wednesday night prayer meeting. The people prayed for me and bragged on me. When I was 18 our family, with my father in poor health, sold the farm and moved to Florida. I soon went off to college and all our connections with southern Indiana began to dissipate.
It has been nearly 40 years since we moved away. I’ve been back, of course, several times through the years. In fact, around 20 years ago I was the preacher for a revival at Charlestown Church. The days of big attendance were already past and the church was made up of senior adults, many of them had been there during my growing up time there. Aside from that, Charlestown Nazarene has found its way into many of my sermon illustrations and it is certainly part of my spiritual DNA. Who I am today was shaped in part by that church.
Last night, something brought Charlestown Nazarene to mind and I decided to see if the church had a website. At first I couldn’t find anything. Then, on the district website I found the church listed with a photo, but also the word “closed” in the listing. I emailed the district office and received the reply this morning that Charlestown Church of the Nazarene was closed a couple of months ago. Receiving that news is like hearing that an old friend has died.
I guess writing this is, for me, a bit like giving a eulogy for the church. My heart is heavy, but I am also thankful for all the church did for me. Today, I remember Charlestown, Indiana Church of the Nazarene.