A former Presbyterian church has found a new purpose as the home for another congregation.
After years of worshiping downtown, One Way Pentecostal Apostolic Church purchased the Milligan Memorial Presbyterian building on Mill Street and moved to the east end landmark earlier this year.
The new surroundings place the growing faith community in the center of a struggling neighborhood, where Italian immigrants once settled in a corner of town they called Goose Nibble. These days, people battling addictions sometimes come knocking on the church door for help.
“Our mission for this church is to be relevant to the community,” said Pastor Steven Lee, whose parents founded One Way in the mid-1980s.
Bishop Clarence and Betty Lee first gathered a small group of people in the public library before moving to the county fairgrounds. The congregation then purchased a former Wesleyan church on South Green Street. Crawfordsville was home to just two other Apostolic churches at the time.
Bishop Lee, who is Black, pastored to a mostly white congregation, inspiring his son to answer his own call to the ministry.
“I thought that spoke volumes of his character and love for people,” said Pastor Lee, who serves the church with his wife Tamara, adding that the gospel’s message transcends racial lines. “We all find common ground when it comes to the gospel of Jesus Christ.”
Pastor Lee started a Bible study in Lafayette that grew into a church, which later merged with One Way.
Pentecostalism traces its roots to a California street revival in 1906, taking its name from the Christian holiday of Pentecost, when Christians first received the gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to the Religion News Service.
Apostolic Pentecostals broke away about a decade later over disagreement about the Holy Trinity. Apostolic Pentecostals believe that father, son and Holy Spirit are three different titles for Jesus.
Of the 15 to 20 million Pentecostals in the U.S., about 1 million are Apostolic Pentecostals, according to one estimate.
Despite the relatively small numbers, Lee said One Way is among Crawfordsville’s fastest growing congregations, based on his conversations with local pastors. An average Sunday afternoon service draws about 120 people, some who drive from as far as Columbus and Martinsville to worship with the multicultural congregation.
As the congregation outgrew its Green Street home, Lee’s mother-in-law suggested he visit Milligan Memorial Presbyterian Church, which held its final service last fall. Lee stopped by the church as the trustees were meeting to discuss the future of the building. The Presbytery of the Wabash Valley later accepted One Way’s offer.
“They wanted to keep at it as a church for the community,” Lee said.
The congregation soon remodeled the sanctuary, tearing out the brown paneled walls, removing the pews and installing a baptismal. The words “One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism” were hung above the pulpit.
Praise music played from mounted televisions as Lee stepped in to the worship space to greet Crawfordsville Mayor Todd Barton, who was visiting the church. Barton told Lee about the Mayor’s Special Commission on Racial Equality, which is forming in response to the recent protests for racial justice. He said the church’s neighborhood has been on the city’s radar to be revitalized.
“And you guys being here is an anchor for that,” Barton said.
The church wants to find property to establish a new homeless shelter and transitional living center and has been working with Rock Point and other congregations on a drug rehabilitation program, Lee said. Lee also envisions a local multiculturalism museum for youth.
For Chad and Tawenis Arthur, the church has provided a new way to practice their faith.
In February, the couple made the trip from Greensburg to watch Tawenis’s son, Braidon Simmons, preach for the final time before their long-planned move to Florida.
At the end of the service, Tawenis Arthur said, “God spoke to [Lee] and said ‘You’re supposed to move here,’” she recalled. “I said, ‘Well, pastor, he’s going to have to give us a big neon sign to move here.’”
The Arthurs soon called off their plans for Florida and relocated to Crawfordsville with their three children ranging in age from 8-11. He’s pursuing his contractor’s license and she’s a former elementary school teacher and employment specialist who runs the church’s “Jehovah Java” coffee shop, giving all of the proceeds back to One Way. The family is currently living in a camper as they look for a new house.
The couple often drives people without transportation to and from work and connects those in need with a job.
“We love to help people and that’s what we’re called to do,” Tawenis Arthur said.