For more than 185 years, the Hope Moravian Church, located at 202 Main St., has remained the only Moravian church in Indiana.
In a recent phone interview, Pastor Andy Kilps spoke about the history of the church, its foundational tie to the town of Hope and his hopes for the church in the future. The 36-year-old Wisconsin native resides on the church grounds with his wife, Karen, and their three young children.
When was the Moravian church founded and what is it's tie to the founding of Hope?
The founding of Hope was through the Moravians. Rev. Martin Hauser and his family came up in 1829 and established the town and the church in 1830. So, 186 years later we are still reaching out with the love of God to everybody.
How many parishioners does the church have?
I tend to go more by attendance. We have two services every Sunday in morning and evening. Between the two, attendance is about 180. Morning service at 10 a.m. and it is more a traditional service. And, in the last year or two, we have started a more contemporary service at 6 p.m. called The Cross.
How does the Moravian denomination stand apart from other Christian denominations?
Basically we are considered one of the oldest Protestant denominations in the world. We are also a smaller denomination. When compared to thousands of churches in the United States, we have 125 in the country and we are the only Moravian church in Indiana. There are not a whole lot of us. We are closely aligned with what one would call historic mainline Christian churches. Not a lot of heavy differences.
As far as the church goes, it obviously plays an essential role in the community of Hope, how would you explain the connection to someone who isn't from the area?
There are a lot of families who are tied to the land - and farmers with the church. It is hard to separate the two. Those with the church are also very active with the schools, community center, food pantry, etc. They're' doing a lot of things all over. The founding of the town had a strong sense of faith and to live by the Bible and along the way felt they needed to open the community to anyone who wanted to come in. In a sense, we are a closed community who lived by a biblical standard of life.
How would you explain the church's influence in the community for so many years?
For the church to still be a great influence, both socially and spiritually, from 1830 through now we seek to be a light for the community. We focus on being a good news church in a bad news world that joyfully shares our hope in Jesus. We like to say Hope isn't just a place to live, but we believe our true hope is in Jesus and we try to live that out.
What are your hopes for the church going in the coming years?
While we have a lot of history in the community that isn't something we just want to rely on. We need to reach out like never before. More of we are going to go out to you rather than come to us. I guess I'm interplaying in the old/new. We are old, but we want to be relevant. The same good news message but looking at ways we can reach out better to individuals and families and provide hope in many ways. And to continue to grow the church and have a great impact in the town and beyond.