Quakers have been meeting for worship services in the area of Randolph County near the intersection of County Roads 500 North and 400 West since the 1800’s. This Sunday, May 15 at 10:30 AM, members of the Bear Creek Friends Church will hold a ribbon-cutting and dedication ceremony for their recently completed “Children’s Ministries” addition. Patrick Byers, the General Superintendent of Indiana Yearly Meeting of Friends, will be a special guest speaker.
Ground was broken for the new addition on March 28, 2021 with eighteen young children from the church participating in the ceremony. The children of the church will also cut the ribbon during the ceremony on Sunday.
The 1,200 square-foot addition was constructed by Campbell and Company Construction of Winchester. It includes a new nursery, a mothers’ room, and two new classrooms. Several families with young children are members of the church, and more space was needed for the children’s Sunday School, junior church, and evening activities.
The committee that oversaw the project included Pastor Zachary Kennedy, Becky Cunningham, Bill Hinshaw, Katie Hinshaw, Kurt Horner, Kevin Huffman, Michelle McNees, Jeff Oswalt, and Bill Wilson. The public is invited to attend the dedication. There will also be a carry-in dinner following the service.
The “Children’s Ministries” addition is the most recent of several additions and renovations that have taken place over the long history of the Bear Creek Friends Church. Quakers were some of the earliest settlers in the area. Many were members of the Addington family. These Quakers began arriving in the area in the 1830’s. Early worship services were held in homes and schoolhouses. In these early days services were given by several traveling ministers. Pastors would come and go on a regular basis. One of these early pastors was Elijah Johnson, a Quaker elder and a freed slave. Another early member was Eli Hiatt Sr. who was also a stationmaster on the Underground Railroad.
In 1873, the Olive Branch Christian Church was built nearby. The members of this church allowed the Quakers the use of their new building to hold services. In 1883, Benjamin Addington purchased half an acre of land from Abijah Slater. It was on this land that their first meeting house was constructed in 1884. At this time the name of the church was changed from “the Olive Branch Meeting“ to the “Bear Creek Meeting.” An addition was made to the West side of the building in 1905.
In the late 1940’s a basement was dug, and the meeting house was moved over it. In 1959, an educational annex was added to the building. By 1975, more space was needed and a brick addition was added to the West side of the building. During the early 1980’s it was not uncommon to have an attendance of 200 people for Sunday School. A large fellowship hall was completed at the church in 2001. The “Children’s Ministries” completes the list of additions and renovations that have been made to their facilities as the church has grown through the years.
The first compensated minister of the Bear Creek Friends Church was Fred Smith who began his service in 1893. Many ministers have served the congregation over its long history. The most recent pastor, Zachary Kennedy will continue to offer his guidance as the Bear Creek Friends Church continues to grow in the future.