A Short History of Brookwood Presbyterian Church – 1948 to 2012
In early 1948 the Board of National Missions asked the Reverend Keith Conning to come to Columbus (Berwick, Bexley area) and start a Presbyterian church.
A core group had been meeting in the Montrose School in Bexley for some time so soon he had forty adults willing to be the Charter Members of a new church. On November 21, 1948 they were organized into “A Presbyterian Church serving Bexley, Berwick Area”. There was no name, no manse, no Sunday School – only dedicated Christians with a leader, the Rev. Conning, was Brookwood’s pastor for 29 years.
The first names of “Bexley and Berwick” was dropped because location was not as important as a name to describe the personality and character of the congregation. “Faith Church” was then chosen, but soon it was discovered that there were already two “Faith” churches in the East end of Columbus. When land was given, in 1949, by the B.C. Morse family, the map indicated a street was to run through our property by the name of Brookwood. So our name came from a line on a map and was approved by Session even though it was a “location” name.
The first cornerstone was laid and ground broken on March 27, 1949. The building was dedicated in June, 1950. This was the building now known as the Conning Chapel. A beautiful building that seats 125, which is on the only solid ground on our property. It is an island surrounded by a pre-historic river, which means the surrounding ground is really dried silt waiting for a flood. In 1952 the Education Building was added. Then in 1954, the gymnasium was erected. By this time membership was 674 so rooms for Sunday School, Boy Scouts, meetings, dinners, Young Adults, etc. were badly needed. Our Smorgasbord Dinners became famous and helped pay the way for much of this building. More parking space was needed and lots across the brook were cleared and made available. Walking to Church across this small brook made our name even more suitable and meaningful. In 1956 plans were started for the Sanctuary and it was completed in 1961. The “connecting link” between these buildings was not built in order to save $50,000. This was completed 20 years later at a cost of $780,000 and was dedicated on June 10, 1984 with five of the original forty members present.
By 1955 our membership was 930 strong and the Rev. Conning requested help. Over the years we have had many dedicated Associate Ministers, Christian Educators, Visitation Ministers, Organists, Choir Directors, as well as office staff and Administrators. But we have only had five Senior Pastors in our sixty-four years since organizing.
Our membership peaked at one thousand nine hundred thirty two (1,932) in 1968, twenty years after the church began. Our Sunday School grew to 850 members. There were two services each Sunday with many dedicated teachers. We had Youth Sundays, outstanding Christmas programs, choirs and a Youth Club that met on a weekday for fun and food.
In 1977 the Rev. Conning resigned and we found out the meaning of the word “interim” and “search committee”. For two and a half years the Rev. Ollie Stang led us and we will always appreciate the work and leadership of Ollie and his wife Millie.
Our second Senior Pastor was the Rev. F. Wayne Weiss who arrived in 1980. He assumed the awesome task of building the “connecting link” for which we are grateful.
Nothing comes without a price and we have paid that with our many floods. The first in 1952 and then in 1959 when we had 4 feet of water in the gym. They claim the piano was floating with hymnbooks and bibles surrounding it like small tugs around an ocean liner in a small harbor. In 1979 our Fellowship Hall under the Sanctuary had about 20 inches of water, water that had been forced up through the floor, bending with its force the steel modern fold doors. The flood of 1959 had warned us that the sanctuary should be built well above the ground and we should be thankful that the builders listened and did that even if we had to put in two elevators. After very expensive sewer work we still have flooding but not like 1979.
The Rev. Weiss left us in 1988 and the Rev. Dr. Thomas J. Mori took over as Senior Pastor in 1990. Many changes were made in our organization and we operated with a nine member Session and eleven Ministry Units. The Deacons have always been a separate Board and they provide us with many outstanding services such as receptions after funerals, Thanksgiving and Christmas baskets and gifts and an especially good coverage of the needs of our shut ins. Our Ministry Units included Personnel, Finance, Buildings and Grounds, Social Justice, Worship, Membership, Education, Community and Worldwide Outreach, Feeding the Hungry and Special Ministries. The Units through their Chair passed suggestions on to a Coordinating Cabinet which in turn took things to the Session. The final say on all decisions remained in the hands of the Session.
In August of 2003, the Rev. Dr. Mori retired and we began the search for our third called pastor. We were blessed to have the Rev. John Birkner, who came to Brookwood in 1998, as our Associate Pastor and we were blessed to have him as our Pastor during the time that we searched for a new called Pastor. In January 2004, the Rev. Larry Edwards was installed as our Pastor. When he came, there was a renewed energy in the church and he gave us hope to look toward the future. However, Mr. Edwards left under less than favorable circumstances on October 18, 2004. In October 2004, the Rev. Jacquelyn Pinkowski became our Interim Pastor. During her time with us the organizational structure was changed. The Coordinating Cabinet was disbanded and the work of the Ministry Units was combined into a total of seven MU’s with the chairs reporting directly to Session.
Hearing the call of another church Rev. Pinkowski left us in early 2007. Our wonderful Associate Pastor John stepped up and again carried us through until our PNC found us the Rev. James Gear who started leading us in May 2007. Again our church was full of energy as we begin to set sail with a new Captain. A Church Growth Team was formed to provide new opportunities for members to share Christian fellowship and to make Brookwood’s presence better known in the community. A Saturday Casual Worship service was developed, and a Sunday Morning Greeter Program was initiated along with a Visitor Outreach Program. Activities such as Quilting Etc., Brookwood Community Book Club and Hill to Valley Hiking were started. The Saturday worship service currently attracts anywhere from 30-50 worshipers and all the other programs conceived by the CGT continue to operate successfully. The CGR discontinued operating after the Rev. Gear left us in 2010.
Once again Pastor John provided leadership and carried the load until July 2011 when the Rev. Dr. Irvin S. Moxley was hired on a part time basis. While the Rev. Moxley’s official title was ‘Pastor for Membership & Community Outreach’ he assists in many areas of church leadership. And then, good fortune smiled upon us with the arrival of Pastoral Intern Amy House in September 2011 for a 9 ½ month stay. Increased staff provided additional opportunities for growth which has brought renewed energy and enthusiasm to our congregation.
Our buildings are done but we now face the fact that after 50 plus years we have to make repairs and replacements. Fortunately we have several retired “experts” who willingly give their time and talent to keep things going with the least expense possible. In 1980, an elevette, given as a gift, was installed from the outside level to the Sanctuary. In 1998 we were able to install an elevator that could service all floors.
Over the past years we have received several large bequests and memorial gifts. One of these was designated for Beautification and results are showing. When first viewed, the landscape expert told us we should turn our church around as all our natural beauty was in the back and all we had there were a dumpster and old storage shed. These are now gone and in their place is a really beautiful professionally landscaped area with a brick walk way and a pavilion which overlooks the grounds east of the church, where many beautiful trees have been planted in memory of deceased members. All of the area is part of Brookwood’s Memorial Garden. Our Fireside Room was professionally redecorated and adds much to the interior beauty of our church. All of these -elevators, pavilion, brick walk, furniture, etc. have been gifts. Because of the generosity of others we also have a very well equipped office together with modern copiers, computers, printers, etc.
One of the most exciting programs that has recently begun at Brookwood is the creation of the Brookwood Community Learning Center (BCLC). This is a flagship program and we are proud to house this service provider which operates independently of the church while providing mutual support. BCLC began during the second semester of the 2003-2004 school year with Ellen Wristen, a long term Brookwood member and special education lawyer, and the Rev. John Birkner as the key personnel. BCLC serves special education students. The first semester 20 students were enrolled. Enrollment has grown over the years and currently BCLC has 70 students for the 2011-2012 school year. The school has graduated a total of 45 students and it is highly unlikely that these students would have graduated without being placed with BCLC.
Another opportunity that Brookwood was blessed to be involved with is the nurturing of the Ramseyer Presbyterian Church. In October 2003, The Ramseyer Christian Fellowship came to us requesting use of our building since they were not yet a church and did not have a building in which they could worship. We agreed and nested this congregation from Ghana for almost five years, before they relocated to a temporary place of worship. In June 2006, the Ramseyer Christian Fellowship received their Charter as the Ramseyer Presbyterian Church. In 2011 Ramseyer Presbyterian moved to their newly built church. We enjoyed a good relationship with this congregation and exchanged ministers for Sunday Service and joint youth activities. We were able to learn from them as they did from us.
Brookwood members are actively working in many ways to support our Mission Statement: “Sharing God’s Love. We are united as a body of Christ where we share God’s love as revealed in and through Jesus Christ. Our unity empowers and demands our diversity. We express our faith through the following Primary Vision Goals: Inspirational worship, reaching out through fellowship, involvement in opportunities for spiritual development, ministering through service, actively involved in mission locally and worldwide, embracing diversity in our community and the world. We are committed to proclaiming the love of God in all that we say and do.”
Our 50th year saw a plaque placed in Montrose School to show where we began. We had concerts, “hat” Sunday, Tee shirts, Golden Moments, and a final outstanding dinner attended by many former members. A copy of the original first bulletin was used for our service that day. On November 22, 1998 we repeated the covenant spoken on November 21, 1948. Let us end our history with these words –
THE CONGREGATION COVENANT – we hereby express our desire to be constituted and organized as a Christian Church. We do covenant and agree to walk together as disciples of Jesus Christ in a church relationship according to the provision of the Constitution of the Presbyterian Church of the United States of America. We promise to maintain this church by our attendance at its services, our support of its work, our gifts, our efforts, and our prayers, and to seek in its fellowship to glorify the Name and further cause of our Lord Jesus Christ. So say we all.