West Goshen Church (WGC) can trace our beginnings back to 1830 when Elder Daniel Cripe, the first elder and minister, organized the Elkhart church in Northern Indiana; at one time supporting all of Elkhart County. The first love feast was held on the Cripe farm this same year, with records showing roughly 20 people were in attendance. History regarding Cripe recounts he began preaching to pioneer families, mostly in German and even though it has been written Elder Cripe was not so able as a preacher, if judged by today’s standards, he had great influence with his people by living a godly life among them. (Winger, p.326)
After only about 8 years from our beginning, The Elkhart Church began to assume the role of a “mother” church as new congregations were planted at Turkey Creek (1837), Rock Run (1850), and Yellow Creek (1856). In time, thirty-one Brethren congregations credited their own launches to the German Baptist Brethren aka West Goshen Church of the Brethren (WGCOB). In 1852 the first ever annual meeting of Brethren in the state of Indiana was held in Baintertown.
Although, as the history timeline below shows, the 1830’s through the 1850’s brought great growth and changes within the Brethren church; including the construction of the first meetinghouse for the Elkhart location, the year 1859 brought with it the death of Elder Cripe who was later buried in the West Goshen Cemetery now owned and cared for by the City of Goshen.
Though as a church community we have seen many changes throughout the years, it is still the desire of WGC to be a people who God works through, as we choose to follow him and live godly lives within our neighborhoods, community, the city and to the ends of the earth.
Our vision is to be a community of Christ followers committed to Gathering, Growing, and Going into all the world in Jesus's name! We will not forsake gathering together in community, growing in God’s truth through the study of his word and following his command to go into all the world preaching this truth to all who have ears to hear. The building has changed, and some technology has been added, however when you walk through the doors to join us in our worship gatherings, you will find a people who care for one another, and desire to see others come to know Christ. We are a community who believes God is still working in us and our world as we together grow in faith, reach out in love, and honor the Lord by serving others.
"History of the Church of the Brethren in Indiana,"; by Otho Winger. Brethren Publishing House, Elgin, Illinois (1917)
SELECTED EVENTS IN THE HISTORY OF WEST GOSHEN CHURCH
1830 Elder Cripe organized the Elkhart Church and was elected presiding elder and minister. This was the first organized church in Northern Indiana, at one time embracing all of Elkhart County.
1830 The first love feast was held in the summer of 1830 at Elder Cripe’s farm. Records indicate that about 20 people took part.
1838 The Elkhart Church began to assume the roll of a “mother” church as new congregations were started at Turkey Creek (1837), Rock Run (1850), and Yellow Creek (1856). Eventually, thirty-one Brethren congregations owed their start to the German Baptist Brethren (WGCOB).
1852 The first Annual Meeting of Brethren ever held in northern Indiana was conducted near Baintertown. This was also the first Annual Meeting of the Brethren held within the state of Indiana.
1859 This year saw both the death of Elder Cripe and the construction of the first meetinghouse for the Elkhart Church.
1863 Four years after the first meetinghouse was erected, the Elders of the German Baptist Church purchased land to be designated as a graveyard. This two-acre plot of ground was obtained for the sum of $100 and was located adjacent to the meetinghouse. This later became the West Goshen Cemetery and was deeded to the city of Goshen in 1975.
1871 The name “German Baptists” was changed to “German Baptist Brethren” at the yearly meeting.
1882 The Brethren saw an official split nationally into two additional denominations: “Old Order Brethren” and the “Brethren Church.”
1883 The first love feast and communion service to be held inside the West Goshen Church took place in May of 1883.
1883 The Congregation voted to build a new and larger church but not without some controversy. Mr. Valentine Berkey was in charge of obtaining materials and overseeing construction. As Dean Henry describes it in his book, A History of the West Goshen Church 1830-1980, “He (Valentine Berkey) decided to have ‘cathedral-type’ windows and doors. But knowing full well the Congregation would vigorously oppose this he had the windows and doorframe made up in two sections instead of the usual single frame. The lower sections were rectangular in shape with the top piece being only a temporary brace. The arched upper section was built as another section and kept out of sight.
The work proceeded and bricks were laid up only to the top of all the lower sections. Early one morning, the arched upper sections were placed in position and bricked in rapidly. Before anyone from the Congregation realized what was happening, it was too late to change. Later when speaking of the incident, Valentine said, ‘I decided that if we were going to have a church house it was going to look like a church house.’ This is how West Goshen became the first Brethren church in Indiana to have ‘cathedral-type’ windows.”
1886 A dedication service for the new church was held on October 3. It drew 800 people, 200 of whom had to stand outside the church. Most of these Brethren arrived that day via 285 teams of horses.
1890 The year the Sunday school program was first established.
1900 The Church decided to have a Bible meeting once a week.
1900 An acetylene gas lighting system was installed in the church. Unfortunately, on April 1, 1906, there was an explosion heard up to four miles away. A portion of the south end of the building was destroyed. Electric lights were installed in the Church by the following September.
1906 Without a doubt, the most active organization in the West Goshen Church was started on November 16 when “the Sisters of the West Goshen Church met at Brother Stafford’s home and agreed to send a box of second-hand clothes to the St. Joseph Mission.” Over the course of the next 52 years, this organization which was later known as Ladies’ Aid (1919) rendered a multitude of services often times for the benefit of those in need. As Dean Henry so aptly describes it: “During the years from 1906 through 1958, there were 1,683 meetings with a total attendance of 21,867. At least 499 quilts, 359 comforters, and 5,811 prayer coverings were made. Many items such as bonnets, aprons, and clothespin bags were not tallied in the minutes, but must have numbered in the hundreds.” Dean Henry also recorded, “Perhaps the most amazing figure is in regard to the ‘visits to the sick.’ There were 12,295 such visits made, not counting those made during the first twelve years of this period, in which visits were not recorded.” The last recorded minutes for Ladies’ Aid were in September of 1958. Many of the activities of the Ladies’ Aid continue today in West Goshen’s Women’s Fellowship.
1908 On a national level, the “German Baptist Brethren,” changed their name to “Church of the Brethren.” The Church was now English speaking and American in culture and so dropped the “German” and “Baptist.”
1915 A motion was made to forward a petition to District Meeting seeking to have the name of the “Elkhart Church” changed to the “West Goshen Church” in order to avoid confusion with the Elkhart City Church organized in 1893. This petition was granted on October 7, 1915.
1916 The inscription on the stone on the front side of the Church building was misleading and objectionable to some people in 1917. The inscription on the stone read: “German Baptist Church 1886, Elkhart Dist.” The United States at that time was involved in World War I and, as a result, “German” appearing on the Church proved unpopular. There had been threats against the building and against some members. The stone was removed. In 1938, it was “rediscovered” and imbedded in the sidewalk at the southwest corner of the Church. It was later placed on the south exterior wall of the Church by the entry doors to the West Wing. It remains a continuing testimony to the heritage of this Church.
1918 The Sister’s Aid suggested the Church install an indoor toilet which they agreed to pay for. The net balance in the Church treasury at that time was $1.31; the Sister’s Aid enjoyed a balance of $71.67. The toilet was installed.
1919 December 7 marked the first time a collection was taken during the Sunday morning worship service at West Goshen. Prior to that, money was raised by the assessment of membership dues and special collections at council meetings.
1920 At the September 4 Council Meeting, a request was made and granted for a music director for church services.
1921 At the September 16 Council meeting, a request was made and granted for the first ever Vacation Bible School.
1926 The Primary Department of the West Goshen Sunday School was opened April 4.
1927 Brother Oliver Nusbaum was hired to supervise construction of a new entrance to the front of the Church complete with a vestibule, cloakroom, and toilet. Brother Nusbaum was to receive 70 cents per hour for his efforts.
1930 The 100th Anniversary of the West Goshen Church of the Brethren was celebrated on November 27 with Otho Winger serving as the main speaker. The first snowstorm of the season hit on that day which greatly reduced attendance.
1935 At the Council Meeting on January 25, the use of a piano in the Sanctuary was finally approved after a very heated discussion and the Young Peoples Department (Y.P.D.) was authorized to secure a piano. The piano was the first musical instrument played in the Sanctuary; “Jesus Saves,” the first hymn played on the piano; Dean Henry the first pianist.
1941 On October 19, twenty-five men met at the church and organized what became the Men’s Fellowship. Two years later to the very day (10/19/43), the Men’s Fellowship” heard a talk from Dan West on his Heifer Project. That started the ball rolling for what has become one of the most successful international aid projects ever. This project to end world hunger is still actively supported by the members of West Goshen Church of the Brethren and has been singled out as an exemplary and honestly managed fund raising project.
1943 After a tradition of the free ministry since its beginning, the Church now voted to begin paying a minister the sum of $3.00 per sermon. The presiding elder received $300.00 a year. Pastor David Berkebile was the first pastor compensated.
Paid pastors dating from March 13, 1949 are as follows:
David G. Berkebile 1949-1953
Harry W. Eshleman 1953-1958
Paul C. Lantis 1958-1968
George W. Phillips (Interim) 1968-1969
Donald G. Holsopple 1969-1972
G. Curtis Weddle 1972-1975
Without a Pastor 09/75-01/76
Lester E. Fike (Interim) 01/76-09/76
Charles F. Stouder 1976-1981
James A. Hall 1981-1986
Richard C. Wenger (Interim) 1986-1987
Wendell H. Tobias 1987-1993
Brian D. Arbuckle 1993-1996
Opal Pence Nees (Interim) 08/96-08/97
Martin Gauby 1997-1999
Opal Pence Nees (Interim) 08/99-01/00
Donald Snell 2000-2005
Ray Barkey (Interim) 2005-2007
Tom Clark (Interim) 2007
Norman Replogle 2007-2020
Joel DeSelm (Interim) 2020-2022
Michael McCant 1/08/2023-12/17/2023
1948 The Men’s Fellowship voted to sponsor a jeep for Anna Wartsler and presented the idea of building the Cabin to the Council. Both of these projects ultimately became realities.
1949 The Byler property at 1302 Berkey Avenue was selected as a parsonage. The cost of the property was $9000.
1953 At the Council Meeting on April 7, a plan was presented suggesting an addition to the rear of the main building to include a heating plant capable of heating the entire building.
1956 “Dedication Day” ceremonies were held for the new education building. The cost for the structure was $57,699. A total of 416 people attended the dedication service on March 18 at which time a carry-in dinner was held.
1956 On October 29, the Trustees were authorized to purchase for $300.00 the ground directly south of the cabin to be used for parking.
1957 A public address system was installed.
1961 The resting place of Daniel Cripe and his wife Magdalena was moved from Dierdorf Cemetery to the West Goshen Cemetery. The inscription on their grave marker reads as follows:
Elder Daniel Cripe was the first Brethren minister
and father of the Brethren Church in Northern Indiana.
He established his new home in 1829 on the site of
Goshen College after moving from near Dayton, Ohio.
After constructing a wooden plow, tradition says he
was the first white settler to plow a furrow on the
You Reap What You Sow
1962 The Council approved arrangements for the Church to sponsor a Boy Scout Troup.
1965 The Palm Sunday tornadoes struck Elkhart County with devastating effect. The Church cabin was set up as a relief distribution center.
1967 Harold Berkey was appointed to a two year term as West Goshen’s first representative to Manchester College.
1976 The property located immediately west of the Church, 1210 Berkey Avenue, was given to the Church as the result of a will probated September 14.
1977 The Congregation started sharing “Joys and Concerns” during morning worship.
1980 The 150th Anniversary of the West Goshen Church of the Brethren was celebrated in 1980. A major part of the observance was the publication of a detailed history of the Church by Dean Henry.
1980 As part of the Sesquicentennial Celebration, a time capsule to be opened in 2030 was placed behind the original stone name plate proclaiming. our early Church heritage: “German Baptist Church, 1886, Elkhart Dist..” . In 1999 it was reinstalled in the southwest wall of the New West Wing .
1983 A new sound system was installed in the Sanctuary.
1984 The Church began taping Sunday morning services.
1986 The 100th Anniversary of the Church Sanctuary was celebrated as part of a Rededication Program on October 5th. The featured speaker was Donald F. Durnbaugh; the Pastor was Richard Wenger.
1987 The Church voted to buy a new organ.
1998 The West Goshen Church of the Brethren was officially incorporated.
1999 The first annual Fish Fry was held.
1999 The new West Wing was dedicated. (shown to the right)
This encompassed a new kitchen, large fellowship hall, bathrooms, and a handicap accessible ramp to the rest of the building.
2000 Phend and Brown completed the paving of the parking lot.
2001 Trustees installed a new carpet in the Sanctuary.
2003 The loan on the West Wing was paid in full.
2005 The Church sold the property at 1210 Berkey Avenue, formerly owned by Valentine Berkey.
2016 The congregation did a major renovation of the basement of the church building to provide additional programming space and to improve the basement’s condition, in general, to ready for the future.
2022 The congregation disassociated from The Church of the Brethren due to the COB’s failure to stand strong on Biblical Authority. The congregation joined the new Covenant Brethren Church denomination.
Source Authority: A History of the West Goshen Church 1830-1980, by Dean Henry.