Church revival in Richland Township

Editor’s note: This is the first of three articles looking at renovation projects at Richland Township churches.If you check out the number of churches in Richland Township on the Whitley County Historical Museum website, there are only three listed: The Larwill Wesleyan Church, the Larwill Methodist Church and the New Hope Wesleyan Church.All three churches are located in one of the least populous townships of Whitley County and, according to census records, had more citizens in 1890, than any year since.But something is afoot in Richland Township, because even in the recent economic slump, all three churches have been or are in the process of construction or remodeling. Two of the churches are located within the town limits of Larwill, and the focus in this article will be on the former Larwill Methodist Church, now the home of the Trinity Evangelical Church.David Gangwer, a member of the church, and his brother, Michael have been working on the remodeling of Trinity Evangelical Church, located at 112 N. Center Street in Larwill.Eighteen windows have been replaced on the lower level and the stained glass windows are in the process of being sandwiched between plexiglass. The entire interior has been restored including church offices, the choir loft and the bell tower.“There were no pews in here when we purchased (the building),” said David Gangwer, giving a tour of the structure. “We got these out of Shipshewana.”The pulpit came from a Mennonite church in Millersburg which Gangwer said had been cut off at the bottom with a chainsaw. A new base was built for it. “The piano came with the building,” said Gangwer. It was torn apart and rebuilt by Tim Bushong, an elder of the church who is also a piano tuner. The church membership, which began with nine families, now numbers more than 100 with some traveling as far as Warsaw, Claypool, Syracuse, Bourbon and even Marion to attend. The Marion family has since moved closer to attend the church.A pamphlet called, “Why we’re here” available for visitors speaks on the reason for the church’s existence: “When we started Trinity, one of our primary goals was to be purposeful and thoughtful regarding any endeavor and to take our cues not from the surrounding culture — or even the surrounding ‘church culture’ — but from a careful examination and application of the Bible.”Originally, the choir loft had been closed to keep heating costs down, but with the growing membership, is now open and according to Gangwer, filled most Sundays. By his best recollection, Gangwer said the church began about three or four years ago. Having no official pastor, the preaching elder is Nate Harlan of Warsaw.