Economic prosperity is in Marion, Indiana's DNA. The city grew wealthy with the discovery of natural gas in the 19th Century, continued that growth after the gas boom sizzled. But with globalization, companies shipping jobs overseas, Marion's economic fortunes have changed for the worse and achieving any real prosperity since has been a struggle.
Through good times and bad the good people of Marion have had by their side Gethsemane Episcopal Church on East 9th Street...the Romanesque architecture inspiring a sense of strength and protection against life's slings and arrows. Marion's Episcopals began meeting in private homes in the 1850's and in 1890 had achieved enough financial independence to build a permanent church. Gethsemane is not gaudy or showy, even its stained glass windows are somewhat humble. But never underestimate the influence this church wields in this town.
“They're worried about what will happen next,” says Gethsemane's Reverend Mindy Bowne Hancock. “Will there ever be urban renewal will there ever be more jobs?”
Reverend Hancock brings to the church a strong commitment to social activism. Some churches hide from controversy. Gethsemane episcopal embraces it.
“We've had seminars on poverty, racism. most recently on immigration and the whole crisis that's been unfolding at the border,” says Hancock. “Things that maybe are somewhat hard for the church to talk about.”
Gethsemane nourishes the mind and soul but also the body. Twice a month volunteers gather in the church kitchen to prepare a free lunch for anyone who might show up. Daycare is offered for kids from struggling families. Religious education teaches the young they are on this earth to make it better...a social consciousness that is nurtured and one that will bring change if anything can. This is a humble sanctuary that fills every Sunday with serious people on a mission to make a better world.
“You are welcome here whoever you are,” says Hancock. “We believe there's a place for you here, that your life will be more joyful to be a part of this.”
Eric Olson reporting out in 21 Country