Carmel Christian Church to celebrate 60 years


Longtime Carmel Christian Church member Judy Gest has experienced more than her share of heartache.

Throughout it, her church community has been there for her.

“We heal each other heart-to-heart,” said Gest, who joined the church in 1964. “In the lowest part of your life you have people that are right there for you and lift you up.”

Gest’s son, Dan, died of AIDS in 1995.

“He was very open and he would talk to the church,” Gest said. “I’ve lost several people, my mother, my aunt, my husband, my daughter and son. All that embracing love of the church makes you want to give back. You want to be there for them as they were for you.”

Rev. Jerry Zehr, who has served as pastor since 2014, said that is keeping with the Disciples of Christ denomination’s welcoming philosophy.

“This has always been an inclusive church and wants to be place for hope and healing,” said Zehr, whose wife, Diane, is a church minister as well.

The church, 463 E. Main St., will celebrate its 60th anniversary Sept. 23. It will begin with a reception to greet former ministers from 9:15 to 10:15 a.m. The 10:30 a.m. worship session will feature former CCC ministers, Drexel Rankin, Steve Moore and Danny Gulden, delivering the message. The celebration luncheon is set for 11:45 p.m.

Janet Randall’s parents, Charles and Sarah Wilson, were charter members of the church. Randall, a lifelong Carmel resident, was 15 at the time.

The basement of the Masonic Lodge was rented as a permanent meeting place until they could build on the land that was purchased at Fourth and Main streets.

Randall and her husband, Neal, had the first wedding in the church in 1962. Neal, who was born in Carmel, and Janet were both Carmel High School graduates.

The church has been in its current building since 1981.

“Carmel has changed incredibly since the late 1950s,” Randall said. “We had the same trouble every church does getting started, and there were several small churches beginning at the same time in Carmel.”

The first meeting to see if there was interest in starting a Christian church in Carmel was in Pattison Hall at the former site of Carmel High School on Jan. 5, 1958. Attendees agreed there was interest. For several weeks the group held services at 2:30 p.m. Sunday afternoons with ministers of various Christian churches in Hamilton County delivering the message. Dr. Robert Andry eventually was hired as interim minister.

Richard Geib was selected to be the first minister in October 1958 and stayed until 1967.

“It began just as Hamilton County Christian Church, but very early they became part of Disciples of Christ,” Zehr said.

Zehr said helping in the community has always been important to the members. The church has a Peace Garden. The vegetables grown in the garden are given to the Carmel United Methodist food bank.

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