Small church hopes to grow larger in Mount Vernon

MOUNT VERNON, Ind. – “Mr. Angel, tear down this wall!”

That was the clarion call when Jack Angel, the patriarch of Black’s Chapel UMC in Mount Vernon, Ind., wielded a large sledgehammer to demolish a solid block wall. That wall was located in a recently purchased building that is being repurposed by the members of Black’s Chapel.

The building is a 19,200 sq. ft. former car dealership that is being retrofitted for worship. The new facility at 1800 West Fourth Street represents a quantum leap from the current tiny country church. In fact, the current church building is so small that in 2003, members had to move to the adjoining fellowship hall for worship.

This move was not an easy thing to do since most of the seasoned members have emotional connections to the chapel. Those connections are deep and include life events and much sweat equity.

During the past 10 years, Pastor Lester Howard has led the congregation on a difficult journey of growth, both spiritual and in numbers, urging the body of believers to move to a more visible location. The congregation first purchased land on the east side of town and planned to build a new sanctuary, but God, who moves in mysterious ways, lit a path to another new site in a very prominent location.

Subsequently, the glass showroom sanctuary is scheduled to be opened April 8 – Easter. Howard was presented with a plaque stating that the sanctuary in the new church will be dedicated in his honor.

When Angel helped in tearing down that wall, he also was tearing down generational walls. One of the older members remarked, “We see you working hard on the new church. Now you know what we did and how we feel.” All the members of this small membership congregation are excited and agree this move is going to lead to good things. In fact, just from the visible activity at the new site, they have acquired several new friends that have joined worship services.

Another added benefit with purchasing such a large property with more space and buildings than currently needed, was the opportunity to help another Christian organization, Young Life. The church has given this youth ministry the use of a separate building formerly the body shop, which Young Life is renovating and using rent free.

Sharon Washington is associate director of Church Development for the Indiana Conference of the Indiana Conference of The United Methodist Church. She can be contacted at

Photo courtesy of Don Viviano

Jack Angel swings a sledge hammer, knocking down a wall at Black’s Chapel UMC in Mount Vernon, Ind.