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Published: Saturday, 6/25/2005

Lindsey service to revisit church closed 69 years ago

BY DAVID YONKE
BLADE RELIGION EDITOR
John G. Roush, left, Beneda Burkette Opelt, and house owner David L. Overmyer are in the area in which the Reformed Church of Lindsey will hold a memorial service on Sunday. John G. Roush, left, Beneda Burkette Opelt, and house owner David L. Overmyer are in the area in which the Reformed Church of Lindsey will hold a memorial service on Sunday.
ALLAN DETRICH / TOLEDO BLADE Enlarge

LINDSEY, Ohio - A few years after the Reformed Church of Lindsey disbanded in 1936, a local farmer tried to buy the building to store grain in it.

One church member, Hiram Overmyer, didn't think that was an appropriate use for the former house of worship, and bought the building for $635.

Tomorrow, 69 years after the last church service was held in the small wood-frame church, Mr. Overmyer's grandson, David, is opening the doors for a one-time Service of Remembrance. He said he is expecting between 25 and 35 people to attend.

"I just thought it was something I wanted to do," Mr. Overmyer said this week. "I tried to invite people that had some connection to it. They're all in their 80s and 90s now. There's not many around here anymore."

Mr. Overmyer grew up in the church - literally. After his grandfather purchased the building in 1938, it was remodeled and turned into a three-bedroom home.

"My grandfather was great for not wasting anything," Mr. Overmyer said. "He used everything - the oak doors of the house are from the old church. There's a lot of old glass doorknobs. The oak church pews were used to make the stairway and other woodwork, and the garage was made from wood from the church."

In 1940, David's parents, Ralph and Alice Overmyer, took up residence in the former church, where they reared their three children, Paul, Patty, and David.

Mr. Overmyer, born in 1945, said there are several frosted-glass windows with etched designs and one multicolored stained-glass window with a star design at the top of the stairway on the eastern side of the building and lit up by the sun in the morning.

The extensive renovation work included turning the building so that its front, which used to face west, now faces south. The workers also cut the length of the building.

Preaching at tomorrow's service will be John Roush, whose father was a member of Reformed Church of Lindsey. Joyce Mosser Knipp will play the organ and Brenda Opelt will sing a solo and discuss her memories of the church.

An offering will be taken with proceeds going to the Youth Ministry of First United Church of Christ, Fremont, and a punch-and-cookies reception will follow the 2 p.m. service.

The Reformed Church denomination dates to the 1700s, when German and Swiss immigrants came to America. In 1725, John Philip Boehm organized 12 German Reformed Church congregations in Pennsylvania, and in 1869 the name was shortened to Reformed Church.

The Reformed Church merged with the Evangelical Synod Church, forming the Evangelical-Reform Church, in 1934, and the Evangelical-Reformed Church then merged with the Congregational Christian Church in 1957, forming what is now known as the United Church of Christ.

Mr. Overmyer said the cornerstone of the Lindsey church was laid and the church built in 1881. The congregation was formed and the church was dedicated the next year.

The founding members were J.L. Loose, Michael Foucht, and Phillip Overmyer, and the first pastor was the Rev. Jesse Richards.

In 1934, the Rev. Israel Rothenberger, who had been pastor of the Reformed Church three times, retired from full-time ministry but continued to serve the Lindsey church on a part-time basis. When Mr. Rothenberger died in 1936, the church disbanded.

Mr. Overmyer left Lindsey, a Sandusky County village of about 500, and worked for the FBI in Virginia for a while, then came back to Ohio and worked as a newspaper circulation official in Fremont and Port Clinton. He moved back into the former church in which he grew up about five years ago.

He said he is glad to be able to give his mother, now 91, a chance to attend a service in the church that was part of the Overmyer family for generations.

After tomorrow's one-time reunion service, the former church will once again become Mr. Overmyer's private residence.

Contact David Yonke at:

dyonke@theblade.com or

419-724-6154.



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