WILKINSON — In 1889, 59 Christians in eastern Hancock County banded together and entered into “covenant to meet together as the Church of Christ at Wilkinson.”
So read the organizational preamble of the Wilkinson Church of Christ on Jan. 1, 1889, and 125 years later, the body continues to be a faith pillar.
The church celebrated its longevity with a special service on March 9 with nearly 500 in attendance.
From those original 59 along with the remnants of two earlier seed churches in the area, Wilkinson Church of Christ has grown through four separate buildings and multiple additions.
In 1994, the church added an additional worship service for its 600-member roster, with an average Sunday attendance of about 400, said Senior Pastor Ryan McCarty.
Because of the church growth, especially that of its children’s ministry, services are now held in the Family Life Center that was built in 1987.
“The Family Life Center has been a huge asset to us,” said Kenny Brown, who has been a member at the church for half a century and was one of the elders who oversaw the life center construction.
Brown attributed the church’s continued life and growth to a number of factors, not the least of which is a strong youth program.
McCarty, who’s served at the church for the past 13 years, said over time the church has made a point to develop and maintain a strong children’s ministry.
“We have a high priority on kids from birth to graduation,” McCarty said. “It’s one of the things that set us apart.”
Additionally, the church stays true to its calling, and though church leadership is always reviewing how things are done and presented to keep the church relevant and enticing to new generations, it never strays beyond the Bible.
“We have two services, a contemporary and a traditional service, but we still stay within the bounds of scripture,” Brown said. “We are strictly scriptural, and that’s very important.”
“We are a strong Bible church,” McCarty said. “We encourage people to be in the Bible and to study it for themselves, personally, and for their families.”
McCarty said that biblical grounding is central to the church’s success.
Additionally, the years have brought great congregational leadership to the church, men and their families who were very generous with their time and financial support that brought the body through even the hard times of the Great Depression, McCarty said.
The church’s accomplishment is even more remarkable considering its present location lies within miles of where the original building went up in an area that hasn’t grown all that much.
A good deal of the congregation that exists today is of essentially the same lineage and communities that seeded the church over 100 years ago.
Limited growth, however, has not been a limiting factor given the geographical area from which the church can pull.
Brown said the church attracts residents from Greenfield, Shirley, Knightstown and countless farms in between each Sunday.
“They like a country church,” Brown said.
The bottom line, however, is the humble nature found in the church as McCarty sees it.
“They are humble and willing to be united despite differences. They’re willing to work for the greater good.”
It’s that willingness to set aside and work together that has defined the church for over a century.
It’s biblical, McCarty said.
“The Bible tells us the world will know us as disciples of Jesus Christ by the love that we show each other.”
The ongoing work and attention to detail and ability to adapt without compromising its beliefs continue to reap a harvest for Wilkinson church of Christ.
“The future looks good,” Brown said. “We have a lot of people come through those doors.”