The early history of the Greenwood Presbyterian Church is almost inseparable from that of the town which shares its name. The two are co-existent. They were planned at the same time and by the same little group of pioneers. They had their conception and their birth together. The first land purchased in the vicinity of Greenwood was purchased by Jacob Smock in May 1822. The following September he was joined by some of this extended family. They came from Mercer County, KY, as did a number of other families who settled here. They were members of New Providence Presbyterian Church in Mercer County, KY. A Rev. Isaac Reed organized the church December 31, 1825. Six members by certificate; three by confession of faith. The following day, New Year’s Day, 1826, they held their first Communion.
They met in private homes for their worship. The present structure of Greenwood Presbyterian Church is our fourth building. The first log cabin house of worship was erected in May of 1826. It was located SE of Noble Street and Madison Ave. on about 2 acres. The rest of the lot was reserved for a cemetery. This log cabin was used for 6 years. It became too small, and in the fall of 1832 the committee decided to begin the work of building a new church. It was to be 40 X 60 foot frame building, with a belfry and a balcony.
The new (2nd) building was dedicated on September 17, 1853. It cost $2500 and was used for worship and a school for 45 years. A storm heavily damaged the wooden church on March 23, 1893. As reported in the April 1893 Session Minutes, the spire with a gilded hand pointing to Heaven crashed to the ground.
A bell was needed as they built the new belfry. Mrs. Wishard (mother of Dr. Wm. Niles Wishard for whom Wishard Hospital was named) rode horseback over the area asking for donations for the bell. This was a noble and heroic thing to do, as there were hostile Natives and wild animals to contend with. But she was successful, and a new bell was purchased for the belfry.
After 45 years, the old wooden structure was out of repair and was unfit to meet the needs of a growing settlement. A Congregational Meeting decided to build a new brick church. The Session wanted stained glass windows and fine hardwood pulpit, pews and a bell tower.
It was decided to relocate the building at the corner of Main and Brewer Streets, because the center of population had moved about ½ mile south of the old church. The cemetery was probably moved at this time to Greenwood Cemetery because of drainage problems.
The new sanctuary, dedicated in 1898, boasted two Rose windows and 21 smaller windows, all of stained glass. They were designed by Mr. James Robinson, a teacher in the Greenwood Schools and a carpenter in the 1890s. The glass was imported from Austria. The first pipe organ installed in Greenwood was installed at this church in 1901.
There was a fire on Dec. 24, 1915, caused by the furnace in the basement being too close to the wooden beams above. The church was rebuilt as before the fire with few changes, including the decision to raise the floor higher from the furnace! Rededication was on Feb. 20. 1916.
There was a major renovation in 1989, with a new entryway with an elevator/lift to make it handicapped accessible. A new front entrance was made on the west (parking lot) side, and the Kitchen was remodeled. In 2014 the Bell Tower was renovated, at the cost of $80,000: $40,000 of which came from endowments, and $40, 000 was borrowed. The borrowed amount was paid off in one year.
Several special ministries should be noted. During the time of Rev. E.W. “Bud” Morack (1981-1998) the church grew especially – to about 375. He encouraged lay leadership and enlisted members to participate in various ministries of the church. The congregation grew enough to call the Rev. Erik “Rik” Spencer as Associate Pastor in 1995. The Rev. Eric Pasanchin was called in 2001, and instituted a contemporary evening service. It brought in several new people, but divided the church. The membership fell from about 350 to about 200.
However a Disciple Group was started in 2002, which continued through 2013. It was important because it created leadership within the congregation. They studied in depth and seriously the Bible, theology, and some of the Great Courses. Eric engaged the church with Rick Warren’s 40-Days series (The Purpose Driven Life, etc.), and people did get involved in the church during that time. The Greenwood Presbyterian Church began housing Headstart, a low-income education readiness program for 3-5 year olds during Eric’s time. It should be mentioned that the Presbyterian Church has hosted AA groups for over 55 years.
There is another important outreach of ours. Christian refugees fled persecution in Myanmar (formerly Burma) and many settled in the Indianapolis area. The Chin and Miso (language) groups settled in the greenwood area, and our church began housing the Greenwood chin Presbyterian church about 2014. They share our building for Worship, Sunday school, and fellowship meals. This happened during the ministry of Rev. Cheryl Montomery, who was called in 2007. She served until 2016, when the Rev. Peter Zinn was called.