"Faith of Our Fathers"
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1998 UPDATE TO ST THOMAS HISTORY, written by Burton Sintz in May, 1998

As noted earlier Rev. Daniel Nugent assumed the pastorate in January 1980 and was installed February 17 that year. He resigned in 1985 and was called to St. John's, Elwood in October. He has since returned to this area at St. John's, Hubble's Corner, where he has ministered for some time.

After being raised into, being a member of and later ministering at Missouri Synod Churches, Rev. Ralph W. Easterhaus, his wife, Beverly, sons Ryan and Jon and daughters Christin and Allison moved into our parsonage. The crowded living conditions were gracefully accepted with no complaints by this hard-working group. They had been called from a church in West Frankfort, Illinois. Pastor's ministry began here March 16, 1986, installation being on June 18 that year. He had for a short time been involved part time in secular work but returned to full time ministry with zest.

By 1992 this family felt they had accomplished a great deal here and chose to accept a call to a larger parish, St. John's (Lake Township) near Fort Wayne. After a six year stay, they left here on June 15, 1992.

The pulpit was served by supply pastors for almost a year. Rev. Gary W. Anderson accepted a call from us from Rockford, Ohio on June 6, 1993. He was duly installed June 20 that year. His wife, Mary Lou is a teacher in the Franklin County Community School System. His son Kyle, graduated from Capitol University, Columbus, Ohio and is employed. Kirsten is a Capitol student. The Anderson family has  had a number of foreign exchange students as guests in their home.

Mary Lou became our organist after the passing of Martha Shelton November 29, 1994. Martha had served her church for close to a half century, only being away from her organ bench for a very few Sundays during that span of time. Her dedication to her job was so intense that she was at her bench even when it was evident that the end was very near for her. Martha's husband, George, a veteran choir member, died the same year, also after suffering a long illness. A beautiful new Kurzeweil electronic keyboard has been purchased and is used at times by Mary Lou and her assistants.

With a largely old-age participating membership the usual average three or four deaths a year is a burden on our church, so when in 1993 a total of 15 died in a year's time, the congregation was stunned at this large loss of membership. Many were yet active and it is difficult to fill their pew seats.

Change comes slowly in an old predominately German parish, but it does come. Imposition of ashes on Ash Wednesday, long thought of as a ritual used only by another denomination has slowly been gaining acceptance under Pastor Anderson. Holy Communion many years back was only offered about six times a year, now is offered twice monthly (first and third Sundays) plus extra days if a festival day  falls on other than the first and third Sunday. For parishioner convenience during June, July and August two worship opportunities per Sunday are offered at 8:00 and 10:30 A.M. The practice of First Communion beginning at age 10 is now fully accepted. Formerly communion was only administered after a youngster had been confirmed.

In the early 1990s a supplemental (red) hymnal was purchased. This is used on some Sundays and gives us a vastly increased variety of music, especially some old hymns that are perhaps more easily joined in on by some of us. The use of electronic keyboards is increasing here at St. Thomas. Some added traditions have become popular. One that has been going on for some 20 years has been the Easter Sunday breakfast, providing fellowshaip on this day. Our ladies have for many years been having a Lenten breakfast on Maundy Thursday in a rotating order with other denominations in the community. A Lenten Fair, while new, is another popular event held on Holy Week.

For the past decade or more a renewed committment to good building and grounds maintenance has placed our church building, its surrounds and our parsonage in excellent condition at the time of our sesquicentennial observance. A couple of most generous legacies from deceased members enhancedour financial position and made large outlays of funds possible to finance needed projects without borrowing at the bank.

In 1987 a concrete ramp at an approximate cost of $10,000 was constructed on our south side to bring us in compliance with an increasing custom of easier access for disabled and partially disabled peoples. The ramp while thankfully has not had to be used widely by wheelchair users has had a broad use by those who find it just easier to get into our first floor and social room this way.

In 1988 the Fries property at the south side of our church became available and was sold at public auction. Church officials jumped at the chance to buy and it was purchased at a price of about $26,000. When the church was built in the early 1920s I am assuming limited financial ability and possibly lack of availability forced the planners at that time to place the building in a very compact site. In the early 1960s the late Charles Klemme donated to the church the lot to the west side of the building. The old house was torn down and the lot made into a parking lot thus relieving congestion on that side. The Fries purchase and subsequent demolishing of buildings gave better building security and of course the off-street parking was welcome. In 1991 paving and striping of both lots were tremendous appearance and upkeep improvements.

In 1991 the purchase of pew cushions were a comfort improvement. In 1994 a limited outside renovation helped maintenance and appearance. This included some brick tuck-pointing, some cleaning of brick and stonework, new grouting and caulking in some areas. All the while our property committee members were persistent in battling various areas where moisture was entering the building and at the present time these areas are about all protected.

In 1994 and 1995 our roofs were getting beyond the point that it was prudent to attempt repair. In 1994 Chomel and Sons of Connersville placed new rubber roofs on both towers. In 1995 the main church roof was cleaned off to sheathing and replaced with a new 40-year warranteed fiberglass roof. Several years back the flat and perennially troublesome roof over the narthex was replaced with a sloped roof that while covering some stained glass windows on the outside, solving the leak problems was most welcome. At this time parsonage work included a new roof and new vinyl siding replacing the wood siding that refused to hold paint for any length of time.

All of this time and effort was causing property committee to wonder out loud and to agonize over "were we committing ourselves too much to property affairs and not enough to the worship of Almighty God?" All discussion ended with the same conclusion, our forefathers entrusted us with a beautiful place of worship that they had sacrificed to build. God would surely approve of us making our best effort at keeping His House in fine condition.

In 1996 the church interior received painting and treating of woodwork. The junior Sunday School chapel received a much needed face-lift that included painting of walls, new carpet and our young people spent many hours painting murals on the walls that give this area a distinctive appearance. Also this same year a new state of the art sound system was installed by Sound Design of Greensburg. A special feature is the availability of small radio units that hearing impaired people can take to their pews for some sound assist. These are proving popular. The original system had served us for 30 years. In 1997 Glass Menagerie of Columbus performed repair workon our stained glass windows. In early 1998 St. Thomas entered the computer age and as this is being written this new equipment is being placed in use.

During this almost two decade period in this history update we find our day circle of the women's organization (WELCA) being active as ever or at least as their age and health permit. They have for many years been a helping auxiliary of this church. May God permit each of them to help much longer. The Faith (evening) Circle while not being around as long do their share in assisting. Our youth organization continues active with their activities being highlighted by traveling to distant cities for rallies in recent years.

Our most recent anniversary was a very successful event in 1988. Our Bishop, Ralph Kempski preached here on Sunday, July 10. We really enjoyed everything about the two day event. Plans are in the making for a big Sesquicentennial event in this year of 1998. We pray that it will be equally successful. Bishop Kempski, although he is scheduled to be in retirement by that time, is planning to be with us again for this celebration in July.

As we press ahead into a new millineum we see at least one area that causes us grave concern. A glaring lack of young and middleage couples is a problem that puzzles us. Consequently there are few youth in our midst. We look around and see a graying congregation that naturally has lost its energy. In our Sunday School the Harmony Class alone is well attended. We all long for the sixties when these same members of the Harmony Class were active members of the Booster Class and the register board on the wall showed attendance of 150 and more at times. No one seems to know the answer. As for our worship attendance about 10 years ago this probably peaked at near 150. We have had significant decline since that time but signs have indicated a leveling off has been occurring.

The church's financial condition is quite healthy, not only because of significent memorial gifts but general fund giving has been very good. In many of the years that your writer can remember there was an almost constant pleading necessary to meet expenses. It is a relief for us all to not have to be concerned about meeting expenses.

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Comment or Question?

by Burton Sintz - May 1998

At the risk of getting too far off the subject at hand, the update author feels some comment on Bob Bunz is appropriate. Having known him many years I became aware of his many talents.

His church had the highest of priority in his life. He knew and would tell you why he was Lutheran. He had thoroughly studied all phases of his denomination. Almost any suggestion of change would make him bristle, suspecting someone was up to no good. Maybe even diluting or watering down his denomination. Quite a few years ago he was the first editor of "The Chimes", our church monthly newsletter. He continued as editor for about 20 years.M

He had a short career in the the U. S. Navy during and shortly after WWII. He was a long time teacher at Brookville High School. His classroom discipline was legendary. I personally did not have him as a teacher, but I have heard stories of students who felt they should test his will with some sort of disruption. It is said Bob would then come up behind this student and slowly dig his "pincer-like" fingers into the shoulder blades of the offender. It is said there were no repeat offenders.

Bob did not waste his summer vacation from school. For many years he managed swimming facilities and taught swimming, first at Versailles State Park and later at Heap Memorial Pool in Brookville when it opened. He was an unusually strong swimmer, and if you had him as an instructor, you had the best.

He was fiercely loyal to any organization he associated with, and his opinions were strong; consequently he had very little patience with dissenters. Bob Bunz died November 13, 1983 and was laid to eternal rest on November 16 at the age of 79. We greatly miss him in our midst.