Second Reformed Presbyterian Church in Indianapolis, Indiana, has some spiritual roots in Scotland.
Founding pastor Roy Blackwood worked on his doctoral thesis there and studied the life and ministry of Scottish Reformed Presbyterian Pastor William Symington. What grabbed Dr. Blackwood’s heart was the doctrine of Christ’s kingship over all things, church and state, and how Christ builds His church, both in Symington’s life as a pastor and in his classic book, Messiah the Prince and to the ends of the earth. His kingdom confined could not be confined to Scotland or Ireland or the United States. Having been pastor of an RP church in Bloomington in the 1950s, Dr. Blackwood and his family moved to Indianapolis, the state capitol, in 1964, trusting the Lord for His building of His church, in a way that could demonstrate His kingship over all things, even state government.
The church attracted many young people in those early years, some coming to salvation in Christ through Dr. Blackwood’s active ministry on state college campuses. The church was emphasizing basic disciplines of personal Bible study, prayer and Scripture memory, under the hope and prayer that all members would develop a vision for personal growth in Christ. The campus ministries of the Navigators and Intervarsity Christian Fellowship had helped many young believers learn the basics of Christian growth, but Dr. Blackwood helped many of us find these disciplines farther back in church history. Scotland was a help. Dr. Blackwood and other historians taught us how the societies of the late 1600s and 1700s had a similar emphasis on personal discipline when the pastors had been persecuted almost to extinction. The society meetings resembled small group Bible studies gathering in homes in Indianapolis.
Second RP Church got its name in recognition of a brief RP church attempt in the 1860s. From Second’s founding the Lord opened doors for new RP churches, on the city’s Southside, along with Lafayette, which helped launch a church in Kokomo, which has given birth to a church to the next county seat over, Marion, Indiana. Meanwhile the Lafayette congregation has given birth to the West Lafayette church, with Purdue University students finding a home in both places.
We continue to see the Lord work among us at Second RP, with new elders joining our session this past year: engineer David Mauser and retired seminary prof. Denny Prutow. We are thankful for the timing, just as we were sending an elder of many years, Ram Rao, and his wife Asha Rao and two daughters to India for church planting there.
Rich Johnston also retired as one of our pastors. We are thankful for Rich’s pastoral service for more than a quarter century, and for many years before that as an elder and deacon. Rich was especially gifted in showing us how to be a servant leader and how to come alongside others and make others successful. He did that as an associate with Pastor Roy Blackwood, but also with many of the rest of us.
Our current pastor, James Faris, illustrates the Lord’s work among us in other ways. He comes from a long line of distinguished Reformed Presbyterians, including some ancestors active in the underground railroad before the American Civil War in opposition to slavery. He grew up in the Lafayette church, benefiting from the disciplemaking emphasis through the late pastor in Lafayette, Dave Long. He also assisted in church planting in Kokomo with then Pastor Barry York, who is teaching at the RP seminary in Pittsburgh and slated to become president.
Another thanks to Scotland’s example in history: we are seeing some multi-generational influences among us, as our congregation now includes grandchildren, along with more of us qualifying as elderly. The church’s early years saw mostly young singles, either as students or just out of college. Then some of them got married. Some of them started being fruitful and increasing in number, in the good Scottish Covenanter tradition. Now some are grandparents and great-grandparents.
We also are grateful for how the the Lord is fulfilling Matthew 28:18-20 as the world keeps coming to the United States, including Indianapolis. Often students come for higher education in Indianapolis, even as we send people in missions to Asia and Africa. The ESL ministry has helped us offer a fruitful welcome mat to those coming from other nations. We rejoice in the Lord’s work in India, as we have sent friends there for His planting of a new church. Venkatesh and Sarmishta left in 2016, after several years with us here, and Ram and Asha Rao in 2017. Again we can thank spiritual and physical ancestors in Scotland for this vision of the gospel going to the ends of the earth.