A History of Worship in Evansville ; Presentation Celebrates 200 Years of Religious Diversity

By Corrigan, Sara Anne | Evansville Courier & Press (2007-Current), October 20, 2012 | Go to article overview

A History of Worship in Evansville ; Presentation Celebrates 200 Years of Religious Diversity


Corrigan, Sara Anne, Evansville Courier & Press (2007-Current)


When John Phillips agreed to research and develop a PowerPoint program to illustrate the "200 Years of Religious History in Evansville," he allowed he did not realize what a leonine task it would be. Becoming a history detective is hard, detailed work. And picking through the available books on Evansville's general history, with the narrow focus of religious history, was a challenge, said Phillips, executive director of Community Marriage Builders, Inc. in Evansville, and member of the Downtown Ministers Association.

Finding archival photos was not always a cake walk either.

But he got it done, and now the program, featuring 50 photos, many of them historic, outlining the chronology of organized religion in Evansville, will be the centerpiece of a public program by the same name scheduled from 2 to about 4 p.m. Sunday at First Presbyterian Church in Downtown Evansville.

The Rev. Alan Amstutz, pastor of Trinity United Methodist Church who helped organize this event said the inspiration for the project was tied to Evansville's 200th anniversary celebrations held earlier this year.

Since the City was celebrating various facets of its history, "We thought it would be significant to include some information, to express the religious history (of Evansville)... to lift that up... to be educational," he said.

Dennis Au, Evansville's Historic Preservation Officer noted that this project is significant to Evansville's history as a whole because "No one has done this - no one has tied (religious history) together (until now)."

THE VERY FIRST SERVICE, CHURCH

From Evansville and Vanderburgh County history books, including "History of Vanderburgh County," by Brant and Fuller (1889), it appears the first recorded Christian worship service was held at McGary's Warehouse in Evansville in December of 1819, said Evansville historian, Bill Bartelt, who added that it was conducted by a traveling minister, a circuit rider, and that the first actual organized church was a Presbyterian church established in 1821.

According to recorded history, as the city grew, so did diversity; St. Paul's Episcopal Church dates to 1835; the Roman Catholic presence dates to 1836 with Assumption Parish being established in 1837.

Trinity Lutheran Church, dating to 1847, marked the beginning of the influx of German speaking people to the Evansville area.

First Baptist Church also was established in Evansville that year; the First German Baptist Church was established in 1856.

German immigrants also brought the Protestant/evangelical movement to Evansville, said Au, who noted that "Evansville was ground zero for this nationwide movement," and that, beginning with Zion United

Church of Christ (1855), "there eventually were so many evangelical churches in town that you could almost throw a stone from one to another."

The Jewish history of Evansville dates also to the mid-1800s and the original influx of Germans, many of whom were Jewish, Au said. …

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