A Church Planting Testimony

On the evening of September 11, around two hundred people gathered as the Marion Reformed Presbyterian Church was organized by the presbytery in Marion, Indiana.  One of the highlights of the evening was the history of the work uniquely expressed by Scott Hunt, an attorney in Marion who was installed as a ruling elder in the new congregation. With his permission I am sharing this history below.

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Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers,.. And David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah,...and Josiah the father of Jechoniah and his brothers, at the time of the deportation to Babylon….and Jacob the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called Christ. So all the generations from Abraham to David were fourteen generations, and from David to the deportation to Babylon fourteen generations, and from the deportation to Babylon to the Christ fourteen generations. Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way (Matthew 1:2, 6, 11, 16-18).

It is clear from a cursory reading of God’s Word that the history of His people is important.  Whether it is the descendants of Adam in Genesis or a list of David’s descendants in I Chronicles, each person had some part in the grand scheme of God’s eternal decrees. The genealogy of Jesus the Christ is so important, in fact, that the Lord sees fit to provide two separate genealogies of the Messiah – highlighting His ancestry on both sides of His family. In Matthew, we are given Jesus’ genealogy before we are told of the story of Jesus’ birth.

As we look at the history of the Marion Reformed Presbyterian Church, it is more than a simple rehearsal of our history; rather, it demonstrates the powerful way Christ has been at work through the generations to grow His body – His Bride.  It also demonstrates for the world that this particular congregation is not being established because of the desire of any one person or family.  We are not a church because a group of individuals came together to start a church.  No, the history shows that Marion Reformed Presbyterian Church is organically linked to the larger body of Christ. Let the history of Marion Reformed Presbyterian Church begin in the same manner that Matthew began his gospel:

And the Bloomington Reformed Presbyterian Church begat the Second Reformed Presbyterian Church.  And the Bloomington Reformed Presbyterian Church had other daughter churches.

And the Second Reformed Presbyterian Church begat the Reformed Presbyterian Church of Lafayette.  And the Second Reformed Presbyterian Church had other daughter churches.

And the Reformed Presbyterian Church of Lafayette begat Sycamore Reformed Presbyterian Church.  And the Reformed Presbyterian Church of Lafayette had other daughter churches.

And Sycamore Reformed Presbyterian Church begat Marion Reformed Presbyterian Church. And Sycamore will have other daughter churches.

Now the birth of Marion Reformed Presbyterian Church took place in this way…

The history of Marion Reformed Presbyterian Church is actually the story of a seed from a tree – a Sycamore – being planted.

In the late 1990s, a group of students attending Indiana Wesleyan University in Marion, Indiana, began to regularly attend the worship services of Sycamore Reformed Presbyterian Church in Kokomo. Providentially, the Marcisz family, who were at the time attending Second Reformed Presbyterian Church in Indianapolis, were living in Marion. The Marcisz family graciously opened their home on Sunday Evenings for Bible Study and fellowship which was lead by Sycamore’s pastor, Barry York.  The seed for a new church was planted.

As is common in most college towns, the Indiana Wesleyan University students who had been attending Sycamore graduated and moved on.  But in God’s providence, several of those students ended up getting married and decided to remain in Marion.  When asked why these couples stayed in Marion, one of the first reasons given was because of the church.  The Marcisz family, who had for so many years faithfully traveled the great distance to Second Reformed Presbyterian Church, also started attending Sycamore. The seed had taken root.

While the Marion families (as we affectionately became known) continued to worship in Kokomo, and have Bible studies in Marion, the Lord brought a family to Sycamore whose hearts were tied to Marion.  Jenny was born and raised in Marion, while Jason had been a police officer and minister at a church in Marion.  The Camery family became a great source of encouragement and refreshment for the Marion families.  The seed was being watered.

In the years….and years…that followed, the Marion families continued to gather for Sunday evening and midweek Bible studies.  It is interesting to note that the Bible studies were not just held in people’s homes.  I would venture to say that no other church plant can boast of meeting in a government building (the Marion Armory), a building that had a dance floor complete with a disco ball, and a refurbished K-Mart. But I digress. At this time, the Lord continued to grow the Marion families by bringing other like minded families to Sycamore from the Marion area.  During this time, there were as many as eight families from Marion faithfully traveling to Sycamore each week to worship.  The Lord gave growth to the seed.

There were several discussions about whether to call a pastor to assist in the planting of a church in Marion, and a call was even made, but to no avail.  It was decided to pull back on the efforts to plant a church in Marion and wait on the Lord.  During this period, several of the families that had been attending Sycamore moved away due to circumstances in their life.  This was, no doubt, a difficult time for the Marion families and Sycamore – who desired to see a church in Marion.  Would there ever be a Church in Marion.  In hindsight, it is clear that during this time the Lord was fertilizing the seed – a difficult but necessary step in the development of any plant.

Right about this same time, Jason Camery began attending seminary at Mid American Reformed Seminary. Jason then transferred to Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary to complete his pastoral training.  Unknown to many of us at the time, the Lord had placed a burden on the heart of the Camery family to see a work flourish in Marion.  In 2009, Jason Camery graduated from RPTS and accepted a call to be the Associate Pastor of Sycamore Reformed Presbyterian Church.  Pastor Camery was called for the specific purpose of developing the work in Marion.  During this time, the Marion families again began meeting on a regular basis on Sunday evenings.  In 2011, Joe Marcisz and Scott Hunt were elected, ordained, and installed as ruling elders of Sycamore Reformed Presbyterian Church with the purpose of providing a firm foundation for the work in Marion, as both men lived in Marion.  The first official act of these two new elders was to vote on receiving the Schwarte family into church membership.  The Schwarte family just happened to be a family from Marion.  The Lord had a plan for the seed.

In 2013, it appeared the Marion work and Sycamore were being tested again. Barry York, the only pastor Sycamore had ever known and one who quite literally almost gave his life for the ministry in Marion*, was called to be a professor at RPTS.  Then it was learned that one of the families who had been a core family in the Marion work from the beginning was going to relocate out of state for work. What was to become of the seed?

But in faith and prayer, the Marion work moved forward.  At the request of the session of Sycamore, Pastor Camery found work in Marion, sold his house in Kokomo, and relocated his family to Marion to begin the church planting work in earnest.  In October of 2013, Marion Reformed Fellowship began weekly Sunday evening services.  Then, in February, 2014, the Marion Reformed Fellowship began meeting on Sunday mornings and evenings.  The seed had sprouted.

After much discussion among the session of Sycamore Reformed Presbyterian Church, and with their blessing, at the 2015 Spring Meeting of the Great Lakes-Gulf Presbytery, Pastor Jason Camery made the motion to organize Marion as a congregation.  That motion was unanimously passed. On September 11, 2015, the Marion Reformed Presbyterian Church was organized as a particular congregation of the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America. The seed that was planted by Sycamore so many years ago has now become a plant standing on its own upon the firm foundation of Christ Jesus, the King and Head of the Church.

The Marion Reformed Presbyterian Church has selected Isaiah 55:6-7 as its theme verses.

Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near; let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.

Pray for us as we labor in Marion to call the wicked and unrighteous to repentance and salvation in the Lord.  Pray the Lord to show his compassion and abundantly pardon many in the city of Marion.

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*Unless it sound like I am to be commended for suffering persecution for this work, Scott is referring to the time I fell asleep at the wheel of my car while driving home from a Bible study over lunch. Though my car was totaled, thankfully I was unscathed.

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