The origin of the Chardon United Methodist Church is traced to a young woman’s 40 mile ride through the wilderness in 1818. Polly Benton made the trip on horseback to ask the Reverend Ezra Booth for his help in organizing a Methodist Church in Chardon. Her exact destination is lost to history. Reverend Booth took the names of those Methodists who were living and worshiping in Chardon to the Ohio Conference in Steubenville on August 7, 1818. Organization of the Methodist Society of Chardon was completed that Fall. There were 10 founding members.
Over the intervening years, the small congregation struggled, grew, and prospered to become the church as we know it today. The name of Polly Benton has been memorialized in the name of a woman’s group within the church – the Polly Benton Circle of the United Methodist Women.
It is noted that the church’s affiliation has variously been described as The Methodist Society, The Methodist Episcopal (ME) Church, The Methodist Church, and The United Methodist Church.
The date that the Methodist Society of Chardon joined the Methodist Episcopal Church (or perhaps simply achieved church status) is not known. The earliest records, dating to 1866, list it as an ME Church. The ME Church was organized in Baltimore in 1784. It split over the question of slavery in the 1840’s, and the Methodist Episcopal Church, South was organized in the southern states. The two branches of the ME Church and the Methodist Protestant Church joined to form the Methodist Church in 1939. The Methodist Church and the Evangelical United Brethren Church merged in 1968 to form the United Methodist Church.
Church Buildings / Locations
Prior to organization of the church, a small group of Methodists met to worship in their homes and in Norman Canfield’s barroom. Following formation of the Methodist Society of Chardon, members met in members’ homes, the Court House and the Brick Academy.
Construction of the first church building, a wooden frame structure, was started in 1833. It was dedicated in 1836. The building stood on Main Street, a little more than halfway from Center Street to Court Street.
Construction of the second church building, a brick structure, was started in 1883, and it was dedicated in 1886. It stands at the corner of Main and Center Streets. A parlor and kitchen were added in 1928. The Chardon Assembly of God congregation now occupies the church.
Construction of the Sanctuary and associated areas was started in 1965. The cornerstone from the previous church was incorporated into the structure. It is near what was then the front door (south side of the Narthex).
The congregation participated in an unusual groundbreaking ceremony. After a Sunday morning service, they put their hands to a long rope tied to a walking plow. Reverend David Patton and Ed Hofstetter were on the plow handles. Together they plowed a furrow down the hill where the Sanctuary was to be.
The altar area is dominated by a large wooden cross and a modern style stained glass Tree of Life, which reaches to the peak of the Sanctuary. Joseph Shultz, a carpenter contractor, made the large wooden cross that hangs over the altar. It was constructed from hand-hewn beams that came from a barn on land now occupied by the Bass Lake Tavern and Inn, 426 South Street.
The organ in the Sanctuary is one that was moved from the church on the square. It was purchased in 1953, and some of the pipes from the previous organ purchased in 1910 were incorporated into the new organ at that time. Several additions to the organ have been made since its installation in the Sanctuary, and it was extensively reconditioned in 1982.
The cornerstone was laid, and the Sanctuary was dedicated on August 7, 1966.
The decorative banners that hang below the side windows on the interior of the Sanctuary are a more recent addition. They were hand woven by Nancy Hart.
George Kenyon handcrafted the new baptismal font, and it was dedicated in 2004.
The new addition was built in 1997 and 1998. Fundraising began in early 1996. The addition includes an office suite, a large general-use area (Hayden Hall), and a kitchen, as well as a large hallway and atrium. The structure encloses an inner courtyard that is designated as a quiet place (the Meditation Garden). The Education Wing was renovated as part of the project, and an elevator was installed. It provides handicap access to all levels of the church. A wheelchair lift was also installed beside the stairway between the new addition hallway and the Sanctuary. Planning and building of the structure was done during the tenure of Reverend Marvin Brown.
An Executive Campaign Committee was formed to direct fundraising. The members were:
- Rev. Marvin Brown
- John T. Fitts – Chairman
- John Neilson – Finance/Auditor
- Dave Van Dusen – Advance Gifts
- Barry Bishop – Pacesetter Gifts
- Bob Emmons – Victory Gifts
- Ken Philips – Stewardship & Training
- Dwight Goss and Ruth Schneider – Celebration Event
- Joe Lewis – Spiritual Emphasis
- Jim Comer – Publicity & Publications
- Janet Loe – Administrative Support
The consulting firm of Ward, Dreshman, and Reinhardt, Inc. was retained to aid in fundraising. Church members met in groups in members’ homes to discuss plans and the need for funds. The fundraising campaign was dubbed Our Growth for His Work.
A Building Committee was formed to oversee the planning, renovation, and construction. The members were:
Cathy Comerford-Nells – Chairman, Sally Bell, Mark Brody, Rev Marvin Brown, Bobea Cook, Terry Croyle, Donna Jolly, Paul Kenyon, Dale McCartney, Dave Weir, Don Welker, and Chuck Zitko.
A number of architectural firms submitted plans for the addition. Most plans offered were not feasible because of the site limitations. The only possible direction for expansion was to the west. Stan Kaczmer Architects was selected as the architectural firm, and construction started in mid-1997.
Chuck Zitko designed the wrought-iron railing used on the stairs to the west door of the new addition and on the stairs to the Sanctuary. The stylized fish are symbols that date to early Christianity.
The new office suite provides space for a growing staff, as well as additional meeting space. The new kitchen meets commercial standards. It has the equipment and space to accommodate many willing hands. Hayden Hall, with its 6840 square feet of space and a retractable stage, is used extensively for church and community affairs. It is used for banquets, contemporary church services, rummage sales, youth events, athletic activities, and many other programs.
The new addition was dedicated on May 3, 1998.
The first ministers to serve the Chardon church were circuit riders and did not require a permanent residence. Nothing is known about when the need for a parsonage was first addressed.
The first known parsonage was purchased in 1840. It was one lot south of the corner of Main and Center Streets. The Chardon Assembly of God Church now occupies that corner. When that church was built (1883), the parsonage was moved to the west and situated to front on Center Street (107 Center Street). It was sold in 1903. The house is now owned by Bill and Debbie Hofstetter, and it is occupied by the Rosepointe Cottage Tea Room.
There is some indication that there may have been an earlier parsonage. County records show that the trustees sold “the parsonage for the ME Church of Chardon Circuit” in 1846. This parsonage was on Lot 78, which is on the north side of North Hambden Street, just over halfway down the hill from East Park Street to Maple Avenue. That was six years after the purchase of the parsonage on Center Street.
The second parsonage was purchased in 1901 and sold in 1945. It stands on the corner of East Park and North Hambden Streets (214 East Park Street). The building is now occupied by Newman & Brice Law Firm.
The third parsonage was purchased in 1945. It was at 108 North Street. It was used until 1977. At that time, Reverend Robert Richardson came to the church, and he wanted to own his own home. The parsonage was sold, and the proceeds were set aside for the time when a parsonage would again be needed. The house on North Street continues to be a private residence.
The current parsonage at 11471 Wilson Mills Road was purchased in 1993 when Reverend Marvin Brown started serving the church.
The Historic Bell and the Bell Tower
The land on which Chardon stands was purchased from Peter Chardon Brooks in 1808, and the city is named after him. He promised to give a bell to the first meetinghouse that was constructed in Chardon. He provided the bell in 1834 while the Methodist Church was still under construction. It would not be dedicated until 1836.
When a new church was built on the corner of Main and Center Streets, the bell was moved there. When that church building was sold in 1961, the bell was moved to what is now the education wing of the church at 515 North Street. For want of a bell tower, it sat on the concrete pad at the front entrance of the building. No provision was made for a bell tower when the Sanctuary was built. The bell continued to be used throughout these years. It was tolled before services each Sunday morning.
Construction of a bell tower was expected to follow shortly after completion of the Sanctuary. However, the years passed, and plans for it were not acted upon. Finally in the late 1980’s, Bertha Haueter spearheaded a movement to build a tower for the bell. The Trustees granted direct oversight of the project to an elected bell tower committee. Committee members were Bertha Haueter (Chairperson), Jim Alvord, David Bevan, William Hansen, Mark Hoekstra, Reverend H. Bernard Magee Jr., John Stewart, and Mildred Welch.
There was much discussion about what form the tower should take. A traditional bell tower had much appeal. However, it was agreed that a traditional bell tower is most appealing when viewed from a distance, and that the setting of the church, close to the road and on land sloping away, was not amenable to a traditional tower. The bell tower of choice was designed and built by the I. T. Verdin company of Cincinnati. It is a 40 ft Trinity Tower with a 10 ft cross. The bell is mounted 18 ft from the bottom. The bell was sent to I. T. Verdin for cleaning and electrification. An electric striker was installed, and the tower was fitted with a carillon system.
The bell tower was dedicated on August 6, 1989. By that time, the bell had sat at the entrance of the education wing for over 27 years.
Significant Events in Recent Ministries
Robert H. Richardson (1977-1985)
- Reverend Richardson introduced the Appalachia Service Project to the Chardon United Methodist Church. This ministry has continued every year to the present.
- The Director of Music and Youth position was created with Reverend Richardson’s encouragement. Linda Bell Prusha was hired in 1984, and she continues to work in that position. Both programs have grown in size and vitality under Linda’s leadership.
- Reverend Richardson introduced the Bethel Series to the church. The Bethel Series was a structured, two-year bible study program with an emphasis on mainline Protestant theology. It was a significant program in the life of the church. Most of the adult members of the congregation participated in the series over the course of a few years. Bob selected 12 people who studied for an initial intensive training period of two years to prepare them to become teachers. Those 12 people then carried the message to the congregation in two year terms. They formed groups and taught classes until there was no one left to teach. Among the twelve were Betsy Anderson, Doris Bevan, Carolyn McBride, Bill Hofstetter, Iris Llewellyn, Alice Richardson, Mary Ann Sinkovec, and Janet Williams.
- A second Christmas Eve service was started. This was a difficult sell, and Rev. Richardson promised that the two services would be identical.
- The mortgage for the Sanctuary was burned September 11, 1983. An interesting aside is that Reverend Bob, Ed Hofstetter, and Jim Alvord “practiced” burning the mortgage ahead of time to assure that they would not fill the church with smoke.
H. Bernard Magee Jr. (1985-1993)
- The bell tower was dedicated on August 6, 1989.
- Pews in the Sanctuary were altered to accommodate wheelchairs for the handicapped.
- A grand piano was purchased and placed in the choir loft. This was a project championed by John Fitts.
Marvin R. Brown (1993-2001)
- The New Addition was built. It was dedicated in 1998.
- The staff position of Business Manager was created in 1997. Betsy Ledenican was the first to fill that position.
- The staff position of Director of Christian Education and Program was created in 1997. Elizabeth (Beth) Lockitski was hired then and remains in that position. In addition to directing the Sunday School program, Beth has encouraged the formation of many small groups. By definition, a small group is a group of three to 12 people who meet on a regular schedule with the common purpose of discovering and growing in the possibilities of the abundant life in Christ.
- There are three basic types of small groups within the community of the Chardon United Methodist Church:
- Discipleship groups, where people gather to grow in Christian faith and life.
- Support & Recovery groups, which focus on special interests, concerns, or needs.
- Ministry groups, which have a task-oriented focus.
- Common threads across all three types are biblical study and reflection, mutual support through intentional community building, group ministry beyond itself, and prayer.
- Saturday Nite Alive, a contemporary service, was started in September of 1999.
- The Masindi Mission to Masindi, Uganda has been supported by the congregation since 1998. Dave Weir made the first trip with International Habitat for Humanity at that time. He has been a passionate advocate for the Masindi Mission ever since. To date, five more groups have gone to Masindi. Some of them were Habitat for Humanity projects. More recently, they have been church missions to Rock Foundation School. This past year, The East Ohio Conference granted Advance Special Status to the mission.
Henry F. Woodruff (2001-2009)
- On Christmas Day, Dr. Woodruff presents the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols based on a composition by Archbishop E. W. Benson, Bishop of Truro, England.
- The part-time staff position of Youth and Young Adult Ministry Assistant was created in 2006. David Fulton was hired to fill the position.
- A third Sunday-morning service was started in September, 2006. STRUCK (Spending Time Reaching up to Christ’s Kingdom) is a second contemporary service.
Church Programs and Organizations
S.T.R.U.C.K. (Spending Time Reaching up to Christ’s Kingdom)
S.T.R.U.C.K. started as a third Sunday-morning service and a second contemporary service. The first service was September 17, 2006. Dr. Henry Woodruff, Linda Prusha, Paul Hagan, and David Fulton are the lead people for this service.
The Music Program
Prior to establishment of the staff position of Director of Youth and Music, the music program was handled entirely by volunteers. Esther Johnson was a particularly dedicated volunteer. On June 23, 1983, she was recognized for serving as the church organist for 36 years.
Jim and Betsy Anderson provided leadership and added much to the music program of the Church. Jim started directing the Choir in 1974. Betsy handled a children’s choir group (Easter People) and special children’s events. They relinquished their leadership roles when the staff position of Director of Youth and Music was established in 1984. However, they continued to sing with the choir and made noteworthy contributions to other Christian ministries. Jim became the pastor of Colebrook United Methodist Church in 2001.
The staff position of Director of Music & Youth was created in 1984. Linda Prusha was hired to fill the position and continues in it today.
The music program includes an adult choir, a youth choir, and two handbell choirs. The adult choir is called the Cantoria Choir (which translates as “singing from the balcony”) and is a vital part of Sunday morning services. The choir also performs for special events. About 30 people sing with it. The youth choir is the Deuteronomy Choir. It consists of about 15 junior high and senior high students. There are two handbell choirs with 10 and 11 members each.
George Kenyon built the storage cabinet for the handbells.
As indicated above, Linda Prusha started as Director of Music & Youth in 1984. The youth program blossomed under Linda’s leadership. John Eltzroth became the Youth Coordinator in 2011, allowing Linda to focus her energies on music. The Youth Group consists of middle school and high school groups. It meets weekly during the school year – less frequently during the Summer months. The groups focus on worship, study, fellowship, and missions. Special events have included mystery trips, white-water rafting, sailing adventures, a visit to a funeral home, and visits to other churches. The senior high group assumes responsibility for Easter Sunrise Services, goes to Youth Annual Conference, and participates in the Appalachia Service Project.
It is noted that Jim Vinciquerra, Nancy Ostovic, Jeff Clemens, Mike Madger, Brad & Laura Dean, John Eltzroth and others have offered much help with the Youth Group activities in past years.
The Appalachia Service Project
Reverend Richardson introduced the Appalachia Service Project to the Chardon United Methodist Church. Under this program, young people, with adult leadership, repair and build homes for the needy of the Appalachian region. The program was very successful under his leadership, and it continues to grow to this day. Over the years, nearly all of the youth active in the church have participated in the program. Both youth and adults have found it to be a meaningful experience.
United Methodist Women
Churchwomen have organized their own groups, made significant contributions, and played vital roles in the life of church families throughout modern history. The women of Chardon United Methodist have done likewise. Their organization has been variously known as “The Ladies Aid Society”, “The Women’s Society of Christian Service”, and since 1968, “The United Methodist Women”.
The United Methodist Women are organized into circles. Currently, there are the Polly Benton Circle and the Deborah Circle. There once were more circles, but they combined with each other as their membership fell.
UMW continues to play an important role in the church. However, it is doing so with fewer members. A changing society, which now requires most women to work outside the home, has drawn membership away from such organizations that meet during normal working hours. The circles play a smaller part in the life of the church than they once did. Bible study groups and small groups that have a particular focus fill some of the void.
United Methodist Men
In earlier times, men’s groups have traditionally taken care of the business and maintenance of churches. More recently, the primary responsibility for these duties has been delegated to formal committees such as the Administrative Board, the Council on Ministries, and the Trustees. The United Methodist Men are still available whenever help is needed. They meet monthly and have one or two events a year that are open to spouses. They meet for devotions, fellowship, and an evening meal. Their meetings usually include a speaker. They help families in need as a mission.
Although there must have been a men’s group for nearly all of the church’s history, Dr. Paul Secrest (Superintendent of the Akron District) presented a Charter of Methodist Men to Wayne Phipps (president of the local men’s club) in 1954.
The lay speaking program was started in the East Ohio Conference about 35 years ago. Training is required to become a lay speaker, and additional training is required at least once very three years. Speakers can be qualified on two levels. Local lay speakers may speak at their home church, and certified lay speakers can speak at any Methodist Church.
The Chardon United Methodist Church is blessed to have an abundance of lay speakers. Lay speakers substitute for the pastor when needed. They provide regular services at Heather Hill, and they give most of the services at Saturday Nite Alive. The certified speakers are often called upon to speak at other churches during the Summer months when pastors are at conferences, on vacation, or in transition.
Until his death in 2008, Earl Vansant was our senior lay speaker. He started in 1986 and has provided extensive leadership for the program. Earl served as the District Director for the Painesville District, now the Western Reserve District.
Men’s Time Out
Men’s Time Out was started by Reverend Marvin Brown during his first or second year. It meets every other Saturday morning for devotions, discussions, and breakfast.
Needs and Deeds
Needs and Deeds was started by Nancy Hart as a widow support group and has grown beyond its original mission to include fellowship activities.
The church has provided a home for Cub Scout Pack 92 since 1994. The pack was organized and chartered at that time largely through the efforts of an adult scouter, Brenda Cvanciger. The pack started with 55 boys and 10 adults. Stan Zupon was the first Cubmaster. The pack currently has 60 boys and 10 adults leaders. Mark Hinesley is the current Cubmaster. Vern Kempf served as the liaison between the church and the pack (Charter Representative) until 2002. Lisa Zupon now fills that role.
It is noted that Board minutes from the mid-fifties to mid-sixties indicate that a Boy Scout troop was using the second floor of the parsonage barn at that time. There is also mention of Cub Scouts.
Church / Community
- The public school system used the basement of the church on the square for kindergarten classes during the fifties.
- The Chardon Day Care Center operated in the Education wing from the mid-seventies to the mid-nineties.
- The back part of the church property has been used by the Chardon Little Leagues for many years. The first baseball field was completed in the mid-1970’s. There are now three fields, and hundreds of players use them every Spring. Paul Kenyon, a long-time president of the Little Leagues, was instrumental in building the playing fields.
- In 2006, the Feed My People ministry started operating out of the kitchen in Fellowship Hall. The mission of Feed My People is to supply the needy with perishable food items donated by local grocery stores.
Chronological History of the Chardon Church
|Chardon Methodist Church Society organized with ten members. First Pastor, Ira Eddy
|First Church building in Chardon, erected by the Chardon Methodist Society. Pastor, B. O. Plimpton.
|Church Bell, a gift from Peter Chardon Brooks of Medford, Massachusetts, installed in belfry of the church. Pastor, John H. Hallock.
|The First Church dedicated.
|Extensive Repairs on the church building. Pastor, Horatio N. Stearns.
|Project to Build a new church building started. Pastor, W. H. Haskell.
|Excavation begun May 10; cornerstone laid August 7; first service in new building (Sunday School rooms) December 30. Pastor, W. H. Haskell.
|Formal dedication of the new building, June 27. Pastor, S. F. Minor.
|Church Repaired and Redecorated. Pastor, J. H. Conkle.
|New Pipe Organ installed. Cost $3,000, of which Andrew Carnegie donated $1,000. Pastor, F. W. Hart.
|New Parlor and Kitchen added and new heating plant installed. Cost $12,000. Pastor, F. A. Hinman.
|Historical Pageant presented, 100th Commemoration of the first church building. Pastor, M. S. Bevington.
|The Methodist Episcopal Church, the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, and the Methodist Protestant Church joined to form the Methodist Church in 1939. Extensive Alterations made in the Sanctuary. Reverend, R. F. Mayer.
|Celebration held, commemorating 125 years of Methodism in Chardon. Pastor, Joe Bell.
|Dedication Service for new pipe organ, March 8. Pastor, C. H. Bowers.
|Campaign started for funds to erect first unit (educational wing) of new church building. Pastor, Harry Carney.
|Ground-breaking Ceremony, January 25, for the new Education Wing. Pastor, Aubrey E. Kirby.
Cornerstone laying Ceremony, August 7, for the new Education Wing. Pastor, Aubrey E. Kirby.
|First Service in the new Education Wing, May 22. Pastor, Aubrey E. Kirby.
|Brick Church on the Square sold to Assembly of God Congregation; the Bell was removed from the tower and taken to the new Education Building. Pastor, Aubrey E. Kirby.
|Campaign started for funds to erect the second unit (Sanctuary) of new church. Ground was broken for the Sanctuary in the Summer of 1965. Pastor, David Patton.
|First Worship Service and Consecration Service held in the new Sanctuary May 8. Sevices of Dedication and Cornerstone laying, August 7. Pastor, David Patton.
|National Merger of the Methodist Church and the Evangelical United Brethren Church to form a new denomination – The United Methodist Church, July 1.
Sesquicentennial Celebration of founding of Methodism in Chardon. Pastor, M. Dean Marston.
|Parsonage at 108 North Street sold. Pastor, Robert H. Richardson.
|Completion of Library, Choir Room, and Youth Room. Pastor, Robert H. Richardson. Rededication Service for reconditioned organ. Pastor, Robert H. Richardson.
|Debt Paid off and mortgage-burning service. Pastor, Robert H. Richardson.
|The Bell Tower was dedicated. Pastor, H. Bernard Magee Jr.
|The Current Parsonage was purchased. Pastor, Marvin R. Brown.
|The New Addition was dedicated. Pastor, Marvin R. Brown.