Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Sunnyside's Past and Sunnyside's Future by Pastor Rebecca

In his sermon this past Sunday, Jamie refered to a history of Sunnyside that was written in commemoration of our 100th Anniversary. A part of that same book that was created were letters solicited from former pastors of the congregation. The letter we are posting this week comes from Ted Greenhoe (pictured with his wife here) who served Sunnyside for 8 years starting in 1937.

Our Conference on the Past (October 10th) will help us to identify the things that have been valued by our congregation over its life in this place. It is hard not to chuckle when you read Rev. Greenhoe's letter. For all of the things that have changed in the world around us, so much about Sunnyside, at least to me, seems to have remained the same.

December 19, 1969

Dear Ira,

I have your letter of December 9 regarding the one hundredth anniversary of Sunnyside Church that is coming up next year, Let me be one of the first to congratulate the congregation and the officers of Sunnyside upon reaching their maturity of one hundred years.

In answer to your request regarding my first impressions of Sunnyside when I came in 1937…

Louis Schleiger was named Chairman of the Pulpit Nominating Committee after the resignation of The Reverend Dirk Middents. One day in the fall of 1936, I received a telephone call from Louis Schleiger asking me if I would become the pastor of Sunnyside Church. The committee had unsuccessfully solicited other men prior to calling me and were now ready to accept me, sight unseen, because I had been recommended by one of the Synod staff people. It was both unusual and pleasant to have a chairman of a pulpit nominating committee invite me, on behalf of the entire committee to be the pastor of a church which I had never seen, and of course, none of the committee had ever seen me. The committee wanted me to come to the church at my earliest convenience and preach a candidating sermon… I said I would be glad to come to Sunnyside and look-at the church, and then determine whether I felt I had the qualifications for the work that needed to be done. I made what seemed to be a long trip from a rural community in southern Indiana to South Bend.

After visiting the church I was then invited to preach a sermon. There were forty people, who attended the Service of Worship on that Sunday morning. One of the women on the way out of church said to me, “l hope you will come to Sunnyside to be our pastor, but If I were you I wouldn't come. There isn’t much future here" This was not altogether encouraging to me, but in the afternoon I met with a few of the officers of the church, including Webster Gray, Joseph Shafer, Charles Becker, Fred Lebaugh and the chairman, Louis Schleiger. They convinced me that the church had great possibilities and they felt so strongly that I was qualified for the position. I went home and reported to my wife that I had a strong feeling that this was a call of God. We gave it serious thought and prayer for several weeks and finally decided to accept their call to become the pastor at $1200.00 per annum which included a rented house.

We did not come to Sunnyside until after Easter of 1937. That, spring in South Bend was cold and wet, but the enthusiasm of the little group that comprised the church was warm and inspiring. It wasn’t long before we counted 50 in the congregation; then 60; and before summer vacation began, we reached the high peak of 100 in attendance.

When I was seriously considering the call to Sunnyside, I wrote to Dr. Baillie who was pastor of the First Presbyterian Church and asked him for an appraisal of the Sunnyside opportunity. He replied saying that if a man didn't mind wearing out a lot of shoe leather (which was his way of saying "calling on the people is essential) that he believed Sunnyside church had a real future. I was determined to wear out shoe leather, and I did. From the very first Sunday that we spent at Sunnyside until the time we left eight years later, there was not a doubt but what we had heard the call of God. The congregation responded in a most generous and gracious way.

The budget of the church for the year 1939 was $3000.00, a part of which was for benevolences. But that $3000.00 represented some real sacrificial giving on the part of a small group that remained loyal to the church during the difficult years of the depression. There was never a lack of volunteerism on the part of the members of Sunnyside. Hardly a one said "no" to the invitation of the pastor to teach a Sunday School class or to sponsor one of the youth groups, or to assist with Boy Scouts, or to manage a Softball or basketball team.

Early in 1940 we established a youth church worship service. The service was broadcast over the South Bend radio station. It became a very popular program both in terms of the radio audience, and in the response of our young people. We had large public school choirs and church youth choirs who visited our church and participated in the services of worship. Through this medium of the youth church we attracted many families of the city to our church. This was before television. The young people were very excited about broadcasting the services

Needless to say our ministry at Sunnyside was an exceedingly happy one and we deeply regretted leaving a congregation that had meant so much to us through eight years.

The thing I remember most about Sunnyside and appreciated the best was the joyous cooperative spirit that prevailed. People took pleasure in doing the Lord's work through the church.

God bless you and good wishes as you begin the second century of witnessing for Christ in South Bend. In these days when so many churches are down keep Sunnyside UP!

The Rev. Theodore M Greenhoe

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