Church hopes to reach out to Ball State students

MUNCIE, Ind. – Selma United Methodist Church is splitting in two.

Unlike some church splits where members leave in anger, however, 100 members are leaving with the pastor’s blessing to start a new congregation at Northside Middle School, to be known as The Compass Church. The first service began at 10:45 a.m. Sunday, Oct. 4.

The idea of having a bigger United Methodist presence on the northwest side of Muncie came to Senior Pastor Mark Ellcessor as he drove back to his church from a meeting at the former Damon’s restaurant.

“By the time I got back in the parking lot, the Lord said to me, ‘You guys need to do this,’” Ellcessor said.

Undaunted by a recent Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life survey that found a growing number of adults are not affiliated with any particular religious faith, Ellcessor sees the Northside location as a prime spot to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ and convert people like Jeff Ellis. Ellis didn’t grow up in church and became a Christian nine years ago. Now he is the campus pastor for Compass Church. Ellis will lead services at Compass, but Ellcessor will deliver sermons by videotape.

“I’m still hearing the message from the same preacher that we’ve been hearing the message from,” Compass member Heather Bright said, noting only the location will change.

Selma United Methodist Church has the backing of the Indiana Conference of United Methodists, which gave a $100,000 grant for the new church, to be used during three years. The church looked into several locations before settling on Northside. Rent for Northside will be $460 a week.

Several churches have rented space from Muncie Community Schools at different times. The rates vary depending on how much space is needed, Associate Supt. of Business and Treasurer Mark Burkhart said.

“For a church we can’t waive anything (because of) separation of church and state,” Burkhart said. “Constitutionally, we can’t give any breaks to any religious group.”

The Northside location – near Ball State University – is a particularly plus to member Leigh Edwards, who feels called to minister to young adults. Students can easily walk from campus to the church.

“So many of the bad choices I made in my life I made between the ages of 16 to 22,” Edwards said. “It’s a time in your life (when) you’re too old to be young and too young to be old. It was one of the things I felt like that was an area I could help and relate to.”

Oseye T. Boyd is a reporter for The Star Press. This story first appeared Sept. 30 in The Star Press of Muncie and is used by permission. © 2009 The Star Press.

Ellcessor sees the Northside location as a prime spot to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ…

Photo by Kelly Day of The Star Press

Members of Selma UMC in Muncie, who are planting a new church, stand at the front to be prayed for. The church began a new satellite service at Northside Middle School in Muncie that will be called The Compass Church. The new service began Oct. 4.