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The Journal Gazette

  • Rachel Von | The Journal Gazette Anna Gordon, right, and her daughter Bonnie Brown sing and hold candles during a Christmas candlelight service Saturday at the historic Prairie Grove Chapel in Waynedale.

  • Rachel Von | The Journal Gazette Richard Hartman, pastor, reads scripture during the Prairie Grove Chapel's Christmas Candlelight Service on Saturday December 23, 2017. VIDEO

  • Rachel Von | The Journal Gazette Anna Gordon, right, and her oldest daughter Bonnie Brown light their candles during the Prairie Grove Chapel's Christmas Candlelight Service on Saturday December 23, 2017. VIDEO

  • Rachel Von | The Journal Gazette Guests listen during Prairie Grove Chapel's Christmas candlelight service Saturday. The 19th-century church was restored after a fire a decade ago, and now a historic designation is being sought for it.

Sunday, December 24, 2017 1:00 am

Devotion keeping old Waynedale church aglow

MATTHEW LEBLANC | The Journal Gazette

Anna Gordon settled in to the second pew on the left side of the Prairie Grove Chapel, just a few feet from the lectern where Bible verses about Christmas soon would be read and songs about the holiday would be sung.

Much about the old church in Waynedale is new. Painting and plaster work to restore the interior was recently completed. A heating system for the building is just a few years old.

But Gordon shares a bit of history with the building, before the restoration work and the candlelight services – one of which she attended Saturday afternoon – that are held each year.

She and her husband, Paul, were married in the chapel in 1948.

“It might be a long time ago, but it's a good thing to think about,” said Gordon, who attended the service with her daughter, Bonnie Brown.

“It's just very neat to come here and see where Mom and Dad were married,” Brown said. “We've had (the service) on our calendars for about a month now.”

The candlelight Christmastime services have been held since 2009, after a fire tore through the building. It's believed the building dates to the 1850s, and volunteers raised money and worked to paint, install a furnace, fix plaster and restore windows.

Now, efforts are underway to have the chapel and a refurbished outhouse on the property listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

“Maybe we'll have the only outhouse on the national register,” Glenn Ellenberger said, smiling.

He has helped to lead the restoration of the chapel, and he's helping with work to designate it a historic place. It's a labor of love for Ellenberger, whose mother is buried in a cemetery on the property, just off Old Trail Road.

The tiny white church with the green door is an iconic building in the community, he said, and it should belong to the community. He said he intends for the building to be used for special events such as the holiday services and weddings.

“I grew up in Waynedale, and it was just always there,” he said. “It was such an icon.”

Pews in the chapel, which seats about 100, are original. A bell rung to start the services Saturday also is original to the building.

“We've gone to some great lengths to keep everything original,” Ellenberger said.

The wooden pews were filled Saturday, as Pastor Richard Hartman read the Bible verses and congregants sang “O Holy Night,” “Mary, Did You Know,” “O Come All Ye Faithful” and other Christmas hymns.

For some who gathered, the chapel was charming enough, but the classic songs of the season added to the experience.

“We love the traditional old hymns,” said Susie Baker of Fort Wayne.

She said she and her husband, Tom, grew up in small churches, and they love the quaint, historic Prairie Grove Chapel.

“We had always been in small churches, always,” she said. “Small churches are different.”

mleblanc@jg.net