A New Congregation Comes Into Being
By Ed Hamblin, Church Historian
From a small group of committed Methodists, Bexley church was born in the home of Mr. and Mrs. W.F. Hutchinson at 97 South Drexel Avenue who owned a furniture store on Mt. Vernon Avenue. From the coalescing of these early worshipers and planning meetings a formal request was sent to the then presiding Bishop of the Ohio Conference, Theodore S. Henderson. Dr. Ora J. Shoop was appointed September 1926 at the fall conference to organize our church.
Services began October 3 at the original Bexley High School (now Main-Montrose Elementary School). The church program that Sunday mentioned that next Sunday church school was to begin and there was an immediate need to organize the Ladies Aid Society, as well as Woman’s Foreign and Home Missionary Societies. By the end of the first year Dr. Shoop reported in his first annual report that the fellowship now totaled 226 members. He also apologized for having by then to shift the worship services first to the old Christ Lutheran Church on the NW corner of Drexel and Main and then to Loy Gymnasium at Capital University. With the completion of the new Cassingham School in 1927 a more permanent temporary location was found.
The seed of our Bexley church was actually planted with the purchase of the east Broad Street plat of ground between Remington and Cassingham by The Methodist Union then know as the Columbus Church extension and Missionary Society July, 1926. The real estate firm of Hansberger-Marion-Beery Company, all of whom were part of the organizing group of our church headed by Mr. Hutchinson, arranged with the society for the land to be deeded over to the church as a grant July, 1927. This act then provided the kickoff for the building finance campaign.
May 17, 1927 was the day Richards, McCarty & Bulford were chosen as the architects for the building of the sanctuary. Mr. W.F. Hutchinson, Chairman, Board of Trustees, began construction at 7:30 a.m., August 30, 1927, by turning the first shovel of earth. In September Dr. Frank G. Fowler was appointed minister and a hectic year and a half of further planning and building was underway. Among the most distinguishing features of the Gothic architecture were the eight stained glass windows. A German immigrant, Ludwig Von Gerichten, designed and assembled the windows in his studio on South High Street utilizing the skills of his workshop in Munich, Germany. Each window was purchased by a group or individual as a memorial as noted on the plaques under the windows. The themes of the windows are worthy of further study.
The altar with an exquisite representation of Leonard Da Vinci’s Last Supper was given by three sisters, Mrs. Frank Hamilton, Mrs. Jacob Stout, and Mrs. Herbert Cook. It was carved by Alois Lang, who, four times, played the part of the Christus in the famous Oberammergau Passion Play performed in Germany every ten years. The Pulpit and lectern were given by Mr. and Mrs. W.F. Hutchinson. The Baptismal Fount was given by Mrs. H.D. Bangeret. Our Book of Memorials covers many more early gifts along with those made more recently.
Sunday, January 20, 1929, the new sanctuary was dedicated during a week long program. Bishop Henderson, presiding Bishop of the Ohio Conference, officiated at the opening ceremony and preached on “The Print of the Nail”. Mrs. Mildred Roberts Burch began her nearly forty years as church organist and choir director. The Chancel Choir established early its reputation for fine church music.
The arrival October, 1931, of Dr. and Mrs. Donald H. Tippett spurred the church to further growth. Dr. Tippett was a Colorado native who received an A.B. degree from New York University with an M.A. and his D.D. degree from the University of Colorado. After a number of faculty positions and church ministries. He came to The Bexley M.E. Church after four years as Senior Pastor of the Church of All Nations in New York City and Head-worker of one of the largest settlements of New York’s Lower East Side.
For what was considered an acceptable building expense of nearly $170,000 in 1927 (3 to 4 million in 2011 currency) dollars became a terrific burden after the stock market crash in October, 1929 and ensuing depression of the ‘30s. The eighty thousand dollar mortgage held by the Columbian Building and Loan Company was called in 1932 requiring fifteen members of the church to cover the debt with their personal promissory notes.