A Rich History and a New Parsonage!

The Coalbush congregation has worshipped on the same corner of Bremen and Jackson roads in Mishawaka, IN, for 164 years. The church buildings progressed from a simple wooden building in 1856 to a brick building in 1905 and a limestone structure in 1959. The Coalbush Church structure changed throughout the years, but not the name.

The church inherited its name from the nickname given the neighborhood in the early 1800’s. When German farmers settled in St. Joe County, they found they could make a profit from the trees they cleared off their fields. Burning the wood in conical-shaped fires produced charcoal which was sold to a nearby iron-works factory. It became such a common practice, people began referring to the area as “Kohle Busche,” which translates from German to English as “Coal Woods” or “Coal Bush.”

During those early years, the Coalbush pulpit was serviced by circuit riders. These ministers arrived on horseback once or twice a month and stayed in the homes of members. In 1937, Rev. Wilson Parks became Coalbush’s first minister. He and his family stayed in a tenant house on a church member’s farm until a parsonage was built. The first parsonage, which cost $5,700 to build, served six ministers of Coalbush Church until 1978, when a new ranch style home was built. The old parsonage was sold and moved to another location south of the church. This new parsonage served eight ministers.

In 2016, a new pastor and her family moved into the parsonage. Soon after, a mold issue was discovered and was causing severe health issues for the new pastor.

Temporary housing was provided for the pastor’s family during this time by purchasing a “bridge” parsonage. Much time was spent looking for a proper house to buy which met conference regulations, tested with no mold, was located near the church, and was priced within budget.

The Conference then assigned Pastor Grant Merrell to Coalbush. He and his family moved into the bridge parsonage in 2019. Negotiations had been on-going with a church neighbor to purchase land adjacent to the church property to build a new parsonage. They were successful, the land was purchased.

After much research the building committee contracted Shipshewana Homes Company to build a 2,228 square foot home with an open basement, three bedrooms and office space. The house was stored over the winter and spring until the land was prepped for the house.

To make things more complicated, the Covid-19 epidemic forced committees to work in creative ways. Church members stepped up to work on the temporary parsonage, getting it ready to put on the market. They also contributed money beyond their normal church pledges toward the new parsonage. Several made donations of landscaping, window blinds, hardware, light fixtures, electrical work, and an installed concrete driveway.

A county mandate forced Coalbush to cancel in-person services. The church budget had to be tightened because of the continued decline of offerings. Their major annual fundraiser was canceled due to the virus and this was another budget set-back. A committee was immediately formed to organize new Covid-friendly fundraisers throughout 2020-2021 and these creative projects have already seen a profit.

There have been many struggles along the journey to build a new parsonage. The church wrote “We are grateful, though, for a congregation who continued to step up, time after time, to the challenges. We are thankful for being in a community that supports our church. We also appreciate the friendly help from the Indiana Loan and Savings Ministry. We know we have been blessed by an ever faithful God who has led us on this journey. We are proud of our new parsonage. We know it was truly God-built!”