Our History

"Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare."

- JEREMIAH 29:7 -

How it all started...

On the first day of fall, September 21, 1873, the journey of Broadway Church began in Indianapolis.  That day neighbors gathered in Pattison Methodist Episcopal Mission Church (so named after the primary donor, Isaac Pattison, who gave $1,700 of the original $2,700 building cost) located just north of Tinker/7th Street (now 16h Street) and on the east side of Yandes.  Because the path to the 40x40 building was often muddy, ragweed was pulled up and laid along the path resulting in the community calling the structure, "Ragweed Chapel."  Rev. Amos Hanaway was assigned as the first pastor.  Within two years the congregation had grown to 148 members with 180 average worship attendance.

By 1877 the church building had become overcrowded so it was decided to purchase land and move  the physical structure 4 blocks west to the northeast corner of Bellefontaine and 7th Street (now 16th).  The congregation led by Rev. J. S. Reager was only out of the building for two Sundays (December 9 & 16, 1877) before the relocation was completed. This new location was also just south and east of the location of Camp Morton which served as the Indiana State Fairgrounds at that time (& until 1892 when the State Fairgrounds moved to its current 38th Street location).  In 1883 the church building was expanded for a total cost of $5,000, and dedicated on August 19, 1883.  At the dedication efforts were made that day to raise enough money to liquidate the indebtedness of $1,200, but only $800 was given in cash or pledges. The newspaper reported that at that point in the ceremonies, Rev. R.D. Black and his wife, who had done so much to make the remodeling possible, interrupted Bishop Bowman and refused to let the dedication continue until all the money was collected. Rev. Black said the money would not come in if the building was dedicated first, so it was postponed until later in the week when the remaining $400 had been subscribed. At that time the congregation was also renamed the Seventh Street Methodist Episcopal Church.

The congregation continued to grow and in late 1893 the decision was again made to relocate and build a new church building at the corner of Broadway and Clyde (now 22nd Street).  The new church was completed and dedicated on January 7, 1894 with all bills paid.  Two days later, the name was changed to Broadway Methodist Episcopal Church.

By 1903 there were 413 members of Broadway.  Following a period of continued growth,  construction began in 1908 on a new stone Gothic church building at the 22nd Street location for a cost of $50,000.  The new building was dedicated just in time for Christmas on December 17, 1911.  This building went on to house 3 other congregations until it was demolished in January of 2012  to make room for a parking lot for Grace Apostolic Church.  

On Easter Sunday, 1918, Broadway burnt its mortgage and it was the largest Methodist congregation in Indiana with over 1,200 members.

Continued growth...

In 1921, as Indianapolis continued to grow to the north and the now 1,450 members had once again outgrown the church building, the congregation began to search for a new property.  As the congregation contemplated a move, the Moravian Episcopal Church burned to the ground on December 28, 1924.  That congregation then made an offer to purchase Broadway‘s building for $60,000.  Soon after Broadway decided to relocate to its current location off Fall Creek Parkway at the corner of Broadway and 29th Street.  The cornerstone was laid on the new English Gothic Sanctuary building on November 22, 1925.  At the same time the Sanctuary was built, the foundations for the entire church building were laid as a testament to the congregation's great faith and vision for the future.

From November 1925 through September 1926, Broadway held Sunday worship at the nearby 1,100 seat Zaring Egyptian Theater located at 28th and Central.  In October 1926, Sunday services moved to the temporary gymnasium in the new building, and then finally on October 30,1927, as the Deagan chimes played from the 112 foot high bell tower, the new Sanctuary was dedicated by Bishop Leeye.

Just two years later, the nation and congregation was hit hard by the Great Depression.  For the next several years, the ladies of the church roasted peanuts in the church kitchen each Monday for city-wide sale to help support the church during those dark days.  Rev. Dr. John W. McFall was the pastor of the now 1,854 members of Broadway.

A postwar baby boom saw many new families joining Broadway.  Under the leadership of Rev. Dr. Robert Pierce from 1949-1957 membership was growing at a rate of 35 new members per month to reach a membership of over 2,800.  In 1950 Broadway's Summer Day Camp began first  at Washington Park before moving to Marott Park.  The day camp continues still today after over 70 years.  In 1952 Willard and Minnie Beck celebrated their retirement after leading the music ministry at Broadway for 51 years.

Since 1927 temporary buildings had housed the chapel, Sunday school classrooms, and a gymnasium.  Built on the foundations set years ago, on May 23, 1954 the new permanent chapel, education building, and parlor were dedicated.  The cost of the new addition was $445,000.

In 1958, Rev. Dr. James A. Armstrong became the pastor of Broadway which had an average worship attendance of 1,200 on Sunday mornings, with an adult membership of 3,367.  At that time Broadway was the largest protestant church in Indiana.  In the early 1960's a Neighborhood Ministries program was started and involved  neighborhood children in small groups for oil painting, crafts, sewing, and a variety of other recreational activities.  This program was directed for many years by Robert "Bob" Goler.  


During Rev. Dr. Armstrong's tenure (1958-1968), the final temporary building was also replaced with a permanent education building which was dedicated on September 12, 1965.  In 1968 Rev. Dr. Armstrong was elected a Bishop in the United Methodist and assigned to the Dakotas Area.  Also that year, Broadway started a neighborhood Well Baby Clinic to care for expectant and newly parenting mothers.

Rev. Richard Thistle came to Broadway from First Methodist in South Bend.  It was a difficult year as many members began moving to the suburbs with the racial integration of nearby neighborhoods.  Over the next year more than 1,100 members left the church with the membership dropping to under 2,500.  Worship attendance declined significantly as well.

Rev. Robert Fribley came to Broadway in 1970.  Along with his spouse, Jane, the congregation sought to strengthen neighborhood programming including a summer day camp and summer program.  In these years Broadway welcomed several African American members, many of whom were educators and professional leaders.  Efforts to address poverty were seen in traditional ministries like the beginning of a food pantry (now the Mid-North Food Pantry which is still in operation at 3333 N. Meridian) and thrift shop.

By the mid to late 1970's the congregation declined dramatically in membership as many long-term area residents moved to the suburbs.  Much of this was fueled by school desegregation orders in the early 1970s that initiated the busing of students to encourage racial integration within the Indianapolis Public School system.  The merger of city and county services known as “Unigov” was a part of the reality of a changing population distribution and concern for the loss of political strength held by the white population.  The phenomenon of “white flight” meant that many homes were sold at a loss as many families moved to schools outside of the IPS system.  There was a shift toward rental properties dominating the area, and most of the 850 congregation members now commuted.  But as many congregations chose to move farther out into the suburbs, Broadway discerned its mission was to remain in the city, and make neighborhood ministry a priority.

In 1977 Rev. Dr. James Morin became the Sr. Pastor (1977-1986) and was joined by Broadway's first female pastor, Rev. Christy Marshall, and Broadway's first African American pastor, Rev. Don Jackson.  Summer Day Camp, recreational programming, Thanksgiving baskets to neighbors, the food pantry and thrift shop were evidence of the congregation’s continuing commitment to ministry with neighbors.  Mr. Bob Goler was assigned responsibility for oversight of many of these programs.  During this time women from Broadway UMC, Meridian Street UMC, and students from Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School, and the Jewish Community Center began a tutoring program for neighborhood children.  This program continued for 30 years and reached an average of 40 students each week.

An Open & Inclusive Mission...

In January 1986 Broadway welcomed Rev. Philip Amerson who had a background in urban ministry.  He came from Patchwork Ministries in Evansville and was soon joined by Rev. Mary Ann Moman, and Rev. Mike Mather (1986-1991).  Rev. Moman shared many of the administrative and pastoral tasks.  Rev. Mather focused on neighborhood ministries with a shared Council established with Castleton, Meridian Street and St. Luke’s United Methodist churches joining Broadway with financial support.  That same year Asian Help Services was founded to provide cultural, language, support, and referral services to Asian immigrants and citizens.  Encouraged by Rev. Mather’s understandings of the strengths inherent among the neighbors, the congregation began to shift programming away from addressing “neediness” to building on the gifts already present among the neighbors.  Two African American women pastors joined the pastoral team in these years, the Rev. Vanessa Allen Brown and the Rev. Jicelyn Thomas.

New ministry initiatives were not primarily based on new programs designed by the clergy.  Laity in the congregation stepped forward with new mission initiatives.  A group of women met for prayers on Fridays.  The focus was on healing for persons, the community, the congregation and the world.  These women stayed for lunch and Bible study.  Amerson and Moman led these gatherings; however, it was there that ideas and possibilities were considered and bathed in joyful fellowship and prayer.  Over the years such groups have continued to meet.

Many other lay persons took initiative during this time.  For example, Ms. Sadie Flowers used her connections within IPS to help set up a kindergarten at Broadway for kindergarten-aged neighborhood children who were not offered this option as the busing under the desegregation order did not provide for the half-day experience.  The Broadway Worker’s Sunday School class offered their classroom for this over a three-year period.  Another example is the initiative of retired public school music teacher, Ms. Alberta Denk, who decided to begin teaching neighborhood children the violin.  She asked for donations to purchase instruments, set up a program where families were to assist and soon there were dozens of children learning to play the violin.

The staff was fortunate to have custodial workers like Mildred Lasley and Cliff Hatcher who lived nearby and were critical linkages and interpreters within the neighborhood.  Mr. Hatcher, a member of the congregation, regularly made breakfast for children who faced an early morning long bus ride to Decatur Central Schools on the far southwest side of the city as a result of the desegregation order.

In 1988, the congregation purchased a house in the neighborhood known as The Bridge House, that would be used for meetings, and to house ministry interns.   In 1989, a Korean United Methodist congregation under the leadership of Rev. Suhyoung Baik began to worship in Broadway's Chapel, and the Jubilee Summer Youth Program began with classes devoted to literature, math, character education, crafts, basketball, cheerleading, and field trips under the leadership of Rev. Mather.  

During Amerson's tenure (1986-1992), Broadway's congregational commitment became more open and inclusive.  This was when our Mission Statement (that we still say together each week in worship) was crafted, and members of the LGBT+ community began to find a home of love and care at Broadway.  Rev. Dr. Amerson later became the President of Claremont School of Theology in California (2001-2006) and the President of Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary in Evanston, IL (2006-2014).

Our Mission: As followers of Jesus Christ, responding to God’s love, our mission as the people of Broadway Church is to be a multicultural, Christian community that in its ministry seeks, welcomes and values ALL people.

From 1992-1995, Mary Ann Moman and Rev. Summer Walters served Broadway as co-pastors.  In 1994, care for our neighbors took a large leap forward with the opening of the Shalom Wellness Center at Broadway.  This partnership between Broadway, the IU School of Nursing, and the Indiana Health Department provided access to health services focussed on  the wellbeing of our neighbors.  This ministry continues now as the Shalom Health Care Center with two (2) locations in Indianapolis.  

In 1996, Rev. Frank Sablan was appointed as the Sr. Pastor.  Sablan is remembered for his pastoral care skills and visitation.  While many new members had joined in the previous decade, there were many aging members who benefited from his care.

In 2003, Rev. Mike Mather returned to Broadway this time as the Senior Pastor and joined Rachel Metheny who had been an intern in the early 1990s and was already there as one of the pastors.  In 2004, Broadway member De'Amon Harges was hired to be Broadway’s Original “Roving Listener,” to rove the neighborhood, block-by-block, spending time with neighbors, not to gauge their needs, but to understand what talents were present.  Over the next few years, De'Amon continued to apply Asset Based Community Development principles to his work, and expanded it to include others.  De'Amon was joined by Seana Murphy, Duane Carlyle, and several mothers from the neighborhood to transform the Jubilee Summer Program for youth to focus on Roving.  Young people from the neighborhood were hired to go block-to-block meeting their neighbors to Name their gifts, Bless them, and Connect them with others in the neighborhood who cared for the same thing.  Together we honor one another by listening  and discovering the gifts, passions and dreams of our neighbors, and finding ways to utilize them to foster "community, economy, and mutual delight.”

Rev. Metheny started a new worship service that grew to be a central part of the life of the congregation, the Celebration Worship (met at 9:30) – an intergenerational worship time that has great energy and commitment (that still gathers on the 3rd Sunday of each month today).
On December 17, 2017, in the early morning hours a fire started in the Community Room on the lower level of the church building and quickly spread upstairs to the main Sanctuary located directly above.  Over $8 million in damages were incurred, and the congregation was displaced for over 2 years.  

On April 21, 2019, the congregation celebrated Easter Sunday in  worship together for the first time in the restored Sanctuary.  In addition to the fire remediation work, building improvements were made throughout including new LED lighting, Wi-Fi expansion, fresh paint, air parlor air conditioning, and a complete remodel of the Community Room (now known as Backstage at Broadway) including  new stage lighting, sound, and video technology.  On October 6, 2019, Broadway hosted a special dedication concert for our new Shadd piano, including a visit by the piano designer and builder, Warren Shadd.        

In 2018, Rev. Mike Mather's book, Having Nothing, Possessing Everything: Finding Abundant Communities in Unexpected Places, was published about the life and ministry of Broadway.

Watch for more history updates soon...

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