A New Era

Ryker’s Ridge Baptist Church to mark 200th year with celebration

The church was recently remodeled inside and out

Photo by Ben Newell

Ryker’s Ridge Baptist Church is celebrating its 200th anniversary on Sept. 13-15.

(September 2019) – In 1819 the Ryker’s Ridge area near Madison, Ind., was different, yet much the same as what we see today. It was a farming community, with much smaller cleared tillable fields. In those days all the land was heavily forested, and each tree had to be taken down with an ax with a lot of effort.
To get to Madison, one had to go down the hollow, where the Dugans lived, on a slightly widened animal trail. Taking a wagon to church downtown was sometimes precarious and maybe impossible due to the weather. With travel so difficult it was no wonder that the Ryker family and some of their neighbors decided that starting their own church made a lot of sense.
This Sept. 13-15 Ryker’s Ridge Baptist Church will be celebrating the 200th anniversary of the beginning of that church. According to Lynn Todd, one of organizers of the event and a member since the day she was born, the festivities will begin at 5:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 13, with Family Fun night.
“We would like anyone who would like to participate (family, friends, neighbors) to come and eat and play games with us out by our shelter house,” Todd said.
On that Saturday at 5 p.m. the church will be sponsoring a catered banquet. For this affair you need reservations and you can get them by contacting Nancy Stephen at (812) 265-5503. Stephen’s husband, Monty, is another one of those who has been a member since he was born 80 years ago. Nancy has only been there for 60.
On Sunday at 10:15 a.m., there will be a dedication service for the remodeled chapel. The old sanctuary, built in 1879, has been remodeled, with new period pews and a complete facelift on the interior and exterior of the building. It will now be used for intimate events, including weddings and meetings. Speaking at the dedication will be Steve McNeil from the State Southern Baptist office and John Autry, who pastured at Ryker’s from 1977-80.
The church has long and deep roots in the Ryker’s Ridge community. In 1804, Col. John Ryker became the first settler in what became Jefferson County. In 1819 his nephew, Samuel Ryker, and several of his neighbors met in Ryker’s home and started the new church.

Photo by Ben Newell

Ryker’s Ridge Baptist Church pastor Kevin Crouch is pictured in the sanctuary.

At the time the congregation included people of various protestant denominations, becoming a community church. By 1841 they officially became part of the state Baptist organization.
The church first met in various log homes. Later it moved to a block house that had been built for protection from the Indians. In the 1840s their first building was erected on a piece of property given by one of the founding families, the Lotts. The property included the full use of a spring. Julie Sparks, a retired English teacher who has done historical research on the church, noted that “a stone animal feeding trough was used for their baptisms.” That building was about a mile north of the present buildings. The first brick building on the present site was the sanctuary (now chapel) and was built in 1879. Later, several classroom additions were added, and a new sanctuary was completed in 2007.
Today, the pastor of the church is 41-year-old Kevin Crouch. He came to Ryker’s in 2015 along with his wife, Melinda, and their four boys ranging in age from 4 to 13. Crouch grew up in Tampa, Fla., earned his master’s degree at Southeastern Seminary in North Carolina and his P.H.D at Southwestern Seminary in Texas. He held a position as assistant pastor at a church in Casa Grande, Ariz., before coming to be the pastor at Ryker’s Ridge.
When asked why he thinks that Ryker’s Ridge Baptist has been able to be a viable church for 200 years, Crouch replied, “Well, it’s not that we think that we are better than anyone else. Churches thrive or diminish for many different reasons. Sometimes churches have no control over the circumstances of the things that surround them. For us, we believe that our longevity is a display of God’s faithfulness. In the past, and certainly now, we have not strayed from being committed to our core values found in the scriptures. We have in the past, and continue today, to preach the good news of Jesus Christ.”
The church no longer serves just the people who live on the Ridge. Today, people drive from 10 to 25 miles in all directions to attend services. “The upcoming celebration is not only about the past but more importantly it’s about the future,” Crouch said “Jesus is still working in lives today, just as He did 200 years ago when we started out worshiping in a log cabin.”

• For more information, call (812) 265-4540 or visit: www.RykersRidge.org.

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