TAYLOR CHAPELA long and rich history of reaching people for Jesus Christ
Taylor Chapel’s history and story is significant, dating to 1865 when it began to be a community called “Bower’s Chapel” (located in what is now “Bowers Cemetery at the corner of Wheelock and Stellhorn). In 1892-93, the congregation moved further up the road to Maysville Road, and then in 1963-64, moved across the road to its current location. The significance of their 150 year story is that Taylor Chapel has always sought to reach forward to the “next generation”, and has been willing to take bold steps of faith at critical times to be faithful to God’s call to “be and make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.”
From a small seed, a bloom shall grow.
And indeed that is what happened years ago when a small community of Methodist Episcopalians chose to build a church so that they no longer would need to worship in the confines of their homes, school or even under the trees. That “seed” was Bowers Chapel. It was nurtured and eventually grew into our beautiful present day Taylor Chapel.
Around 1865, David and Susannah Bowers gave land, on the corner of Wheelock and Stellhorn roads, for a cemetery in which a small frame building was erected known as Bowers Chapel. That building has been gone for many years, but an artist’s concept (a sketch by Rich Hersha) of it hangs in our church narthex. If you visit Bowers Cemetery, you’ll note the names of many who were connected in some familial way to the early members of Bowers Chapel. A small wooded plaque marks it’s location just at the crest of the drive that winds among the headstones.
Farsightedness, faith, prayer and a growing congregation determined the need for a larger church. The “Ladies’ Society of Willing Workers” was formed in 1892 for the purpose of raising money to buy furniture for the church. The ladies also purchased the bronze church bell for $24.00 (which will become part of a memorial wall to be built on site in the near future). That industrious organization changed its structure and name several times through the years becoming part of the United Methodist Women who celebrated 100 years of service in 1992.
In 1893, the congregation moved three-quarters of a mile northeast into the new church, Taylor Chapel named for the donors of the land, Arthur and Mary Taylor. The church measured 46’ by 28’.
But the “seed” continued to bloom, growing into our present day church, Taylor Chapel United Methodist Church (by this time, the E.U.B. and the M.E. denominations had combined into the United Methodist Church in 1968). Additional land was obtained through the Chausees for construction of a new Taylor Chapel, and the church held it’s first service on March 15, 1964. What an exciting day that must have been! During the years ahead, the choir grew in numbers; a digital organ was purchased; a weekly preschool took place, and a Boy Scout troop became a part of our ministry.
As more and more of the community became a vital part of Taylor Chapel, more room was needed for Sunday School classes, offices and weekly activities. The educational wing, fellowship hall, kitchen and a new basement were added in 1980. Reconfiguration of the narthex expanded its area, allowing for additional double glass doors and a hall. Prior to 1980, the fellowship hall and kitchen were wedged into space that is now the library, choir room and office work room. The only offices were those currently located off the small hallway that parallels the sanctuary. The preschool had maintained classes in the old basement, and the Sunday School classes met wherever there was an open corner, eventually using a couple of trailers in the parking lot. The new wing was adequate at the time, but we’re again feeling the crunch of needed space.
In 1998, the church became victim of a tornado that peeled off the sanctuary roof allowing torrents of rain to pour inside. Fast action saved hymnals, Bibles, and musical instruments, but the pews, walls, lighting and carpeting were damaged. In months to come, church friends rallied and gave hours and hours of just plain grub work to once more renovate the sanctuary and narthex. Members at that time will well recall the many Sunday and evening services that had to be held in the fellowship hall. We gained added strength and pride in ourselves during those days
Through the physical changes and relocations, Taylor Chapel has always been blessed by the spiritual strength and friendship of its members. The ministry of our many pastors (numbering well over 50 from Bowers Chapel to today) has guided and uplifted us with love and prayers. Together, we will continue to reach out to spread the good news of our Lord, Jesus Christ, be it inside a building or under the trees.
Our current Pastors are: Dr. Steven Conner, and Rev. Keith Schreffler. They have followed a strong line of faithful clergy servants that most recently include: Revs: Bill Farmer, Mark Gough, Jim Dickey, Dean Fager, Don Johnson,Tom Frost, Warren Otter.
The last worship service before the fire was held in the Sanctuary on Dec. 30, 2012.
In the wee hours of the morning of December 31, 2012 – about 12:30a, fire alarms rang out from the sanctuary. It had caught fire. Due to the heroic efforts of first responder firemen and policemen, the majority of the facility was saved. However, the sanctuary – while the structure was still outwardly standing – inwardly it was a total loss.
God has been very good to us in the process of transition and recovery from the fire. First of all, the entire church community of Fort Wayne responded with caring, loving, tangible, practical and most importantly prayer support. It was an amazing experience of seeing the body of Christ rally around us to encourage us on. We drew great strength from all who stepped up to provide support from all over the community.
We discover many things through tragedy that lead us to triumph, if we’re paying attention to the moments of grace that come alongside us. While we believe God does not cause such events, we also believe His purposes are not thwarted by such events either. Tragedy never has the last word, and God always has the last word and is able to bring new life from the ashes. Along the way, we discover all is not lost, and much more is gained. Simple treasures emerge like this old classic picture of Jesus weeping over Jerusalem from the Garden of Gethsemane the night He was betrayed. This picture hung on a wall near the hottest spot of the fire, and had lay in the ashes unnoticed for 10 months until Max Pritchard dug it out before the sanctuary was demolished. A great reminder of the gifts of God that come our way if we are able to see them and receive them. Gentle, subtle signs and reminders of how God is with us every step of the way through the difficult times…whatever they may be. And we are invited in those moments to embrace what I call a “season of deepening” in our faith and trust in Him.