Welcome to Park Church

The History of Park Church

What follows is an abreviated version of our hisotry.
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This is the history of Park Congregational Church, the United Church of Christ, which was written for the years 1909-1958 by Florence Miley and Mildred Cowell. We are indebted to them for a classic account of the founding of the church in 1913 and its early years during when it became a significant factor in the religious, social and cultural life of the community.
In a new suburban community in the south of Toledo, the need for a medium to serve the religious inclinations of the inhabitants was felt. This desire was the nucleus for the present Park Church, and it was materialized with the help of a mother church and the earnestness and devotion of the people of this community.
On February 28, 1909, the Walbridge Park Sunday school was formed. This organization was the result of a canvass of the Harvard Terrace community at the suggestion of Dr. Ernest Bournor Allen, Pastor of Washington Congregational Church. J.R. Bertsch, Rev. George B. Candee, E.M. Beard, Lou Baer, and Rev. M.B. Soughgate (District Secretary of the Congregational Sunday school and Publishing Society) were the active workers. The first officers were: Superintendent, J.R. Bertsch; Secretary,Harold Schultz; Assistant Secretary, Londa Van Hellen; Treasurer, Mrs. George Vrooman; Organist, Mrs. F.B. DeFreese. Through the kindness of Mrs. J. Girkins, the newly formed Sunday school was loaned an organ.
On March 7, 1909, a Committee was appointed to find a larger meeting place. Mr. and Mrs. Henry D. Van Hellen gave the use of a building on their property at 131 Amherst Drive. In the spring of 1910, it was thought that the Walbridge Park School should affiliate itself with the Washington Street Church. Records of the Washington Congregational Church, written in 1910, show a request of Dr. Allen to his congregation: "To appoint a strong committee to look after the Walbridge Park Branch, which we have developed and adopted. There is opportunity there to secure before long a self-supporting church. Years ago we were helped on our feet by the First Church. We can pass on that help today."

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On March 1, 1910, in the Van Hellen Building, "The Working Band" was created. Mrs. Cutler called the meeting to order. Mrs. George Vrooman and Mrs. L.O.F. Austin were appointed Temporary Chairmen. Officers elected were: President,Miss Carrie Miller; Vice President, Mrs. A.L. Saviers; Secretary, Mrs. Emma Donahue; Treasurer, Mrs. Inez Lownsbury. Added to the Executive Board were the names of Mrs. Hattie Held and Mrs. Jacob Schutz. The object of this organization was "to make money in every possible way for establishment of a church in this vicinity."
June 18, 1911, a meeting was held in the Van Hellen building at which the plan for a branch church was presented by Dr. Allen. The proposal was accepted, and the people adopted the covenant and confession of faith of the Washington Congregational Church. The charter members of this branch were: Mrs. L.A. Alexander, Mrs. Emma Donahue, Mrs. John Laycock, Mrs. Marilla Webb, Mr & Mrs. F.A. Briggs, Mrs. William Cowell, Mrs. L.O. F. Austin, Mr & Mrs. A.J. Salm, and Mrs. Sterling Beeson. Mr. F.A. Briggs was elected clerk.

With twenty-five people present on June 25, 1911, the first communion was conducted by Dr. Allen assisted by Deacon E.L. Briggs and C.H. Briggs of Washington Congregational Church.
October 2, 1913, Dr. Allen reported the loss of thirty members who were dismissed from Washington Congregational Church to organize the new Walbridge Park Church. The thirty members included: Mrs. L.L. Alexander, Mr & Mrs. L.R. Austin, Mrs. L.L.F. Austin, Mr & Mrs. Sterling Beeson, Mr. Frederick Briggs, Mr & Mrs. J. Weir Coover, Mrs. WilliamCowell, Mrs. F.F. DeFrees, Mrs. Emma Donahue, Mr. & Mrs. Sidney A. Keller, Mrs. John Laycock, Mrs. C.C. McCrea, Miss Beatrice Miller, Mrs. George Miller, Mr & Mrs. Arthur Salm, Mrs. David Skeldon, Mrs. John R. Webb, Mr and Mrs. Joseph A. Wissler, Mrs. E. Worthington, Mrs. Samuel Stitt and Mrs. Abbie L. Saviers.

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May 18, 1913: they voted to organize an independent Congregational Church in this district. A Constitution and Confession of Faith were written. Numerous meetings terminated in a "Call for Recognition Council" for the 23rd day of June; letters and invitations were provided and sent to all Congregational Churches in Toledo and vicinity. Five names were considered: Harvard, Olivette, South, Park and Princeton. Park Congregational Church was chosen. Park Church became a member of the Toledo Association of Congregational Churches (now the Northwestern Ohio Association of Congregational Christian Churches).
An invitation was extended on October 11, 1913, to the Rev. Albert B. Eby of Kalamazoo, Michigan, to come to the field to study the local situation with a view to accepting the pastorate. He accepted on 23rd of October.

December 11, 1913, a proposition was accepted that land be purchased at Princeton and City Boulevard (now Harvard Blvd.) for a sum of $831.00, which should be used for the site of a future church building. A committee was instructed to formulate plans for such a structure to cost $6,000, and on July 19, 1914, was authorized to plan to mortgage the lot and borrow money to the extent of $2,000 for a building.
On October 18, 1914, the new home of Park Congregational Church was dedicated. Those participating in the service were: The Rev. Dr. E.B. Allen, Rev. L.J. Leuthi, Rev. Allen Stockdale, Rev. Benjamine Weld, and the Rev. Edgar S. Rothrock, Supt of the Ohio Conference of Congregational Churches.
Rev. Eby concluded his pastorate at Park Church October 15, 1917. Under his guidance the secure foundation of the church, its place in the community life, and the gradual improvements were made. To fill the vacancy caused by Rec. Eby's resignation after a four-year pastorate, an invitation was sent to the Rev. Charles E. Ward of Marblehead, Ohio, to undertake the guidance of Park Church. He accepted the call and began his duties November 1, 1917. The major material event of Rev. Ward's pastorate was the erection of the present church building. Also in 1919, on January 8, the City Missionary Society relinquished its yearly financial support, heretofore provided, thereby making this church self-supporting.

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New Church Building Group was named August 1, 1920. Serving on this committee were C.E. Taylor, J.W. Coover, W.N. Bayless, A.J. Salm, Mrs., Annie Trotter, H.W. Duvendack, Albert Trotter, L.C. Reddish, and Mrs. H.D. Van Hellen. The diligence of this committee was rewarded on October 31, 1920, with the laying of the cornerstone in the new building. The ceremony, held at 3:30PM was opened with the song "How Firm a Foundation. On September 18, 1921, the new church was dedicated at a morning service.
Upon the resignation of Rev. Ward, Mr. Orville C. Jones of Oberlin, Ohio, was asked June 3, 1922, to accept the pastorate of Park Church. The invitation was accepted June 22, and Mr. Jones began his pastorate, although his ordination and installation did not occur until October 5, 1922.
At the Annual Meeting of the church on January 9, 1924, a new Constitution was read and adopted. On Sept. 20, 1925, the David Trotter Memorial organ was dedicated. The principal donors were Mrs. Annie Trotter and Albert Trotter.
The Rev. Jasper Howell filled the pulpit in the interim between the resignation of Rev. Jones and the acceptance of the Rec. Chester F. Dunham who came to occupy the pulpit from Wahpeton, North Dakota. Rev. Dunham began his pastorate February 4, 1928, a service which lasted through nine years.

From March 1 until October 1, 1937, Rev. John Claxton, president of Defiance College, served as Interim Pastor. It was October 1, 1937, that the Rev. Stanley B. Hopper accepted the invitation to assume ministerial duties in Park Church, coming from Boscobel, Wisconsin.

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A call was extended to the Rev. Ivan R. Smith of Easton, Ohio, and he preached his first sermon on November 19. A church supper was given on November 28th by the Ladies Working Band and Dorcas Society to welcome Mr. Smith, his wife and mother to Sough Toledo and Park Church. A men's organization, church membership club, visitation teams, and a church cabinet consisting of one member from each organization was formed to voice opinions of each age group in making the policies of this congregational religious group. The membership now numbered 600. Membership grew to 700 by 1946
The Rev. Smith tendered his resignation in January, 1948 Dr. Chester F. Dunham was invited by the Pulpit Committee to serve as Interim Pastor. A call to the pastorate was extended by the Congregational Meeting on February 22, 1948. The Adult Choir was robed, a most successful project due to the talent of Zula Moorehead, who had served as Minister of Music from 1929 to 1949 when she tendered her resignation. Mrs. Moorehead's services had been of the best.
In November, 1950, members approved a plan to conduct a fund-raising campaign to retire present debt and erect an addition to the present church plant. Richard Weter headed the campaign, and the amount needed was $100,000.00. The building will contain 11 classrooms, Youth Center, Parlor, Chapel, auditorium with stage.

Dr. Chester F. Dunham, due to ill health, tendered his resignation on July 31, 1952. The Pulpit Committee selected the Rev. James C. Mead of First Congregational Church Jackson, Michigan, on August 10, 1952. His wife and three daughters moved to Toledo and occupied the recently acquired parsonage. August 17, Rev. Med preached his first sermon.

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On January 24, 1954, the new Parish House was dedicated.
The memorials included:
The Chapel - in memory of Neil Johnson was given by Mr. & Mrs. Sherman Johnson
Youth Room - for Willard Leigh Bunting by Mrs. Elizabeth Bunting
Primary Room - for William Forrester Dunham II by Chester F. Dunham & family.
The constant increase in membership and organizational work made it imperative to have the services of a full time Assistant Minister. A meeting of the membership was called and vote taken to search for such a person and raise funds with a goal of an additional $2,000.00, as the budget did not include this expense. On September 8, 1957, The Rev. J. Kyle Bigham was appointed and introduced to the members at a supper. At the beginning of 1958, the membership was 1036.
Rec. Bigham asked to be relieved of his duties as assistant because he wished to accept a teaching position. The housing problem had made it necessary for him to commute. The Rev. Lester Vining accepted the Youth Ministry on January 26, 1958.

April 13, 1958, new pews were purchased, installed and dedicated through the generosity of Mr. & Mrs. Lelsie C. Reddish with the words "In respectful and loving memory of the donors".

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HISTORY - 1959-1988

There were many changes at Park Church in 1959. Welton C. Chamberlain accepted a call to become Assistant Minister and shortly thereafter was ordained in Pinckney, Michigan. Rev. James C. Bead, who had been pastor since 1952, resigned August 24th. Rev. Chamberlain resigned September 1, to accept a position s instructor at the Howell, Michigan High School, and Rev. Kenneth Babcock, pastor of Plymouth Congregational Church, Buffalo, accepted a call to become Senior Minister on November 5, Reginald Jackson was Moderator.
Kenneth Martin was elected Moderator in 1960 and served two years. During 1960 the adjacent Cotter property at 1810 Glendale Ave. was purchased for $15,000 to be renovated and rented for income. There were 982 members.

Members voted against adoption of new constitution in May, 1961. If approved, it would have made Park a part of the United Church of Christ, a merger of Congregational Christian and Evangelical and Reformed churches.
The Rev. Marilyn Stavenger, a graduate of the Yale Divinity School, accepted a call on July 1, 1961, to be responsible for religious education and youth work. This was the beginning of an association that was to continue for more than 26 years.

In 1962, Mr. Hazzard resigned as Minister of Music in 1964 to go to Ashland Avenue Baptist Church in a similar position. He was succeeded by Dr. Lloyd Sunderman, of the University of Toledo faculty. In 1965, Norma Sherman Kelling was appointed organist to succeed Effie Sue Lechner.
In June, 1986, Park Church voted to join the United Church of Christ, the result of a merger of Congregational Christian and Evangelical & Reformed churches. At the start of the year, there were 1,015 members.

In 1967 the congregation voted to retain the name Park Congregational Church of the United Church of Christ. Rev. Babcock accepted a call as Senior Minister at the Mariemont Community Church in suburban Cincinnati, and in the interim, Associate Minister Stavenger and the Rev. William Beausay, of Bowling Green State University, provided excellent services. The Rev. Paul Baumer accepted a call to become Senior Minister in August, 1968.

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In 1971, the Interparish Ministry of South Toledo, or the Beverly Cluster of Churches (as it is now known) was formed consisting of Holy Trinity Lutheran, Zion United Methodist, Our Lady of Perpetual Help Roman Catholic Church and Park. Rev. Baumer resigned to accept a position with the Ohio Conference and Stewardship Council of the United Church of Christ in Columbus.
In 1976, a study leave of 16 weeks at Eden Theological Seminary, St. Louis, was approved for Marilyn Stavenger, and the Rev. Joy Skeel, a member of Park, was appointed Interim Associate Minister for the period.

During 1977, Trustees began consideration of adding an elevator to the west end of the church building as part of a barrier-free program.

Rev. Snyder resigned in June, 1978, and in September, the congregation voted unanimously to accept Marilyn Stavenger as Senior Minister and to thank her for dedicated service to Park since July 1, 1961.
Park instituted a program in cooperation with Eden Seminary in 1979, Jeffrey Hipsher was the first Seminary Intern, serving from September 1979 to September 1980. Also in 1979, for the first time, Park Church fulfilled the General Synod's recommendation to give at least 25% of its current expense budget for mission support. The budget was $113, 928, and there were 761 members.
Jeff Hipsher - after graduation from Eden accepted a call as Associate Minister. Doug Lander was the Seminary Intern.

1982, through memorial contributions the church acquired a new communion service, four flowering crab trees along Harvard Boulevard, and a new amplification and recording system for the Sanctuary with speakers in the Parlor and Chapel. Dale Susan Edmonds was the Seminary Intern.

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Glenn Kimball accepted a call to become Associated Minister on September, 24, 1984. Also in 1984, a generous and anonymous gift was presented to Park for purchase of an elevator, with the proviso the church bear the cost of installation-- a major step toward a barrier-free building.

Also in 1984, eight members, all retirees, formed a group (aptly named the Alley Oops by Seminary Intern Mills) to perform needed work and repairs to the building. Coordinated by Custodian Al Beach, to date they have spread 175 gallons of paint in completely covering the interior walls of the church, installed storm windows, refinished the floor of the Sanctuary, pruned trees and shrubs, constructed a barrier free lavatory in the basement, and accomplished innumerable other tasks. The Alley Oops, so named because of the Als involved are: Paul Bivens, Al Franks, Walter Harmack, Al Huber, Edward Lemke, Virgil McNamee, John Purcell, Jr. and Bill Taylor. Park is grateful to the Alley Oops for the hundreds of hours spent on church projects.

The elevator was installed in 1985 to service all floors. Roger Pancost was the Seminary Intern.
In 1986, members and friends shared in a celebration of Marilyn Stavenger's 25th year or ordination and 25 years at Park with "two days of nostalgia, humor, and recollection culminating in a beautiful morning worship" with Marilyn's preaching professor at Yale, Dr. David Browne Barr, traveling from California to deliver the sermon. A scholarship was established at Eden Seminary in Marilyn's honor. Rebecca Johnston was the Seminary Intern.
On August 27, 1987, Marilyn Stavenger accepted a call to become Associate Professor in the Practice of Ministry at Eden Seminary effective February 1, 1988, thus ending an association with Park of 26 ½ years. The announcement was unexpected and came as a surprise to members and friends. Moderator Eikost spoke for the congregation when she said: "Marilyn's announcement was met with a mixture of sadness and joy. After 26 ½ years, the 'letting go' is painful for all of us. However, what a gift to Eden Seminary! There is much happiness in seeing a remarkably successful career in parish ministry culminate in an exciting new opportunity for someone so beloved as Marilyn. She has left an indelible mark on our church. We are'retiring her number'. She cannot be replaced." Glenn Kimball assumed full pastoral duties.

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This section recorded by: Reginald S. Jackson, Sr., September, 1988
In 1988, Advisory & Search Committees were instituted to replace Marilyn. A 75th anniversary celebration was held. Nancy Jo Kemper was called as Senior Minister working with Glenn Kimball as Associate Minister. There were 785 members. In 1989, Nancy Jo Kemper was installed April 9.
In 1990, Nancy Jo Kemper resigned after 23 months of service. Glenn Kimball was asked to remain as Interim for 18 months with an option for call if the Search Committee and congregation so recommended.
1991 was a year of radical changes both for Park Church and the world we live in. The Soviet Union disintegrated and Park began on its second search process in 3 years. The Search Committee decided Glenn Kimball would not be among their final choice. A great deal of turmoil ensued. Barbara Oliver retired as Christian Education Director after 12 years and after 2 years of driving from Ada, Ohio twice weekly, Debrah Lensenn resigned as Choir Director.
In 1994 we hired Kathleen Gladieux for the position of Director of Christian Education. She worked on many spiritual, entertaining, social, community and educational program for the congregation.

We instituted the Samaritan Project Committee to oversee the management of the two Park Church rental properties and to be the stewards of an annual mission project funded by the proceeds of the rental properties after expenses. This program donated $5000.

In 1996 a Personnel Committee was established. The Cabinet began to evaluate the needs of the church on a long-term basis to determine what goals & objectives are being met and what we must do for the future. Jason Jacobs was hired as the new Choir Director.
Joycelyn Degner was called in 1997 to be our new Associate Minister. We participated in a "Live Nativity" program with Holy Trinity Lutheran Church with live animals from the Zoo. After five years of study, member, Terry Kohanski completed her Lay Ministry program.

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In 1998, we hired Amy Korn as Youth Co-Ordinator and instituted the first women's spiritual retreat and a Long-Range Planning Committee to look at where Park will be in the future. A new roof was put on the educational wing. After 16 years, custodian Al Beach retired.

Starting 1999 we had two full time clergy and a Long-Range Planning Committee laying out visions for the future. By the middle of '99 both Pastors had resigned. We were blessed with the leadership of our Lay Minister, Terry Kohanski and interim Rev. Keith DuVernay. In spite of this we collected 99% of our pledged amount for the year. In the latter part of the year, Terry took over preaching responsibilities in Findlay and could no longer serve us as she had in the past.
A Parish Nurse program was initiated. Beverly Dalton promoted good health through all sorts of media. Jason Jacobs attended a national convention and returned inspired for the coming year. Rev. Laurie Hill who has training and experience in helping churches through difficult times was hired for the year 2000.

In 2000, Laurie encouraged us to "do our homework" to help attract God's permanent Pastor for Park. At the Lenten programs, after delicious potlucks, she helped us re-discover Park Church's past & formulate the direction for the future. We selected an Advisory Committee, that selected the Search Committee who will implement the search process.
After four years, Choir Director, Jason Jacobs resigned to pursue his nursing career. We were fortunate to hire Peg Faulmann (wife of member Erv) to fill this position. She brings extensive experience and talents to the choir. She presented a program that retains our ties to 'traditional' Music and adds spiritually uplifting 'contemporary' music to our worship.

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2001 was a year of triumphs and difficulties for Park. The difficulties included continued unrest caused by the separation of our former pastor. Laurie Hill was the Interim pastor.

We initiated a tutoring program at Harvard School. The congregation voted for off street parking and named a task force to utilize our two existing properties and acquire a third to accomplish this. Supplemental hymnals were purchased and the music program is in the "blended" style.
2002 found us with a membership of 422, Rev. Wayne Brass was called as Sr. Minister. The choir room and nursery were moved and redecorated. The two properties we owned were demolished and the land prepared for a parking lot. We formed a Vision Committee to chart the future. The Personnel Committee created job descriptions.
In 2003, membership was 336. We committed to the building at the corner of Harvard and Glendale. The parking lot and new entrance were made possible by generous memorials from Bill Taylor and Kay Harbaugh.

A Mardi Gras public dinner fundraiser was held along with a pig roast for Rally Day and of course the long standing Spaghetti Dinner.

We committed to Love Inc. and gave them room for storage. The Y is using the building for a meeting site. The parking lot was completed and the Vision Team is progressing. Family Nites, Disaster clean up kits were prepared, Arts & Activities, and flu shots kept the building humming.

Maggie Maher was hired as Youth Director increasing all youth attendance.

We adopted a Vision Statement: We exist to Worship the Lord, Serve others joyfully and to expand the circle of faith.

The membership of Park on January 1, 2004 was 300. The Music committed joined the Worship Team and communion was offered to Sunday School teachers and students.

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A task force to evaluate the kitchen, dining room and gym was formed. Talk of energy efficient windows, central air conditioning, three phase electrical service & wiring, upgraded telephone and heating systems and new rear entry door were proposed and a membership of 334 in 2005.

It was a year of joys and concerns. The joys were that we reorganized our old structure, which required a larger number of people to operate it. Under the new structure we have four ministries: Worship, Service, Growth and Administrative.

The youth program is growing; Knitting for Love was started along with an association with the Interfaith Hospitality Network. Several members participated in the U.C.C. Flight School, FYN. Salvation Army, Bell Ringing, St. Paul's dinner, Grace Community Center Christmas Giving Tree, Back Bay Mission, Love Inc. Nu Vision, Arts and Crafts, Jr & Sr. Hi Youth and Explorers for 3rd through 6th graders and a Youth Mission trip kept Park very busy.
2006 started off with Cathy Kusnier as Moderator and a membership of 351. It was a year of transition. We went from an outdated system of operating to a Mission Driven Leadership. The new ministry leaders are:
Worship - Linda Smith
Service - Mary Riddle
Growth - Gary Bats
Administration - John Censer

Rev. Wayne Brass resigned for Chaplaincy employment at a Cleveland hospital. Interim pastor Rev. Dave Plant, our U.C.C. coach from Flight School helped us learn to function effectively. He challenged us to examine our worship service as a newcomer would. Music Director Peg Faulmann resigned to relocate to Seattle, WA.

Renovations to the gym, kitchen and dining room were funded through special gifts; two sanctuary pews were shortened for wheelchair use. FYN, Love Inc, Nu Vision, Sunshine Home, Interfaith Hospitality Network and Park beautification made for a full year. We also instituted a Web page.

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October 1, 2007, brought Pastor Edwin Heilman to the Senior Pastorate at Park. With Pastor Ed's guidance, an AWE (Alternative Worship Experience) service on Wednesday evenings at 7PM was started in October, 2008. Ashley Kohn who sings, plays piano, guitar, drums, and bass coordinates AWE and leads the music.