Central Christian Church has a rich tradition in downtown Indianapolis and within the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). In 1832 the evangelist John O'Kane organized cottage meetings that would lead to the establishment of the congregation. Still vibrant and progressive today, Central's history is nearly as long as that of the city itself.
The Early Years
In June 1833, 20 charter members met in the log cabin of Benjamin Roberts in what is today downtown Indianapolis to organize "First Church of Christ." Six years later they built their first meetinghouse, a modest frame structure on Kentucky Avenue, between Capitol and Senate.
Early leadership held its members to strict Christian principles. The Board of Elders considered striking individuals from the church rolls for offenses such as inadequately supporting church finances, selling whiskey, failing to pay one's debts, or even attending a Presbyterian church. Men and women were segregated during worship.
Christian Chapel replaced the meetinghouse in 1852 and was the city's largest house of worship. Its black walnut pews would accommodate 450 people. The structure boasted a pulpit, gas lighting, furnace heating, and a pipe organ. The redbrick portion of Central's present building was constructed in 1892 when the congregation outgrew Christian Chapel.
From its inception, Central attracted movers and shakers on the Indianapolis social scene and in the Christian community. Some early members were Ovid Butler, founder of Butler College (later Butler University) and David Wallace, who became governor of Indiana in 1837. His son Lewis "Lew" Wallace, Civil War general and author of Ben-Hur, also attended Central.
Zerelda Sanders, who wed David Wallace, was a leader in the temperance and suffrage movements and a charter member of the church. It was her refusal to partake of alcoholic wine that led to the denomination's subsequent use of grape juice in its communion sacraments.
Central has been blessed with inspired and inspiring ministerial leadership during its history. Love Jameson was called as Central's first "evangelist" in 1842, at a salary of $300 a year. Allan Philputt (1898-1925) and William Shullenberger (1926-1956) each enjoyed tenures of more than 25 years. Barbara Blaisdell became the first woman to serve as senior minister in 1990. And today Linda McCrae continues in a tradition of leading, teaching, and helping the church community listen for God's voice.
* Facts from 125 Significant Years: The Story of Central Christian Church. McDaniel Press, Indianapolis, 1958.