Hoosier History Live! features host Nelson Price, Saturdays at 11:30 a.m. on WICR 88.7 FM in Indianapolis.

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Dec. 17 show

Inter-church history in Indy


Pictured is a 1960 bean supper at Bethel AME church in Indianapolis, one of the oldest African-American churches in the state. Image courtesy Church Federation of Greater Indianapolis.Nearly 100 years ago, about 40 congregations gathered in downtown Indianapolis. Worried about gambling, alcohol trafficking and prostitution in 1912, the congregations formed one of the country's first church federations.


In the beginning, black churches could not join the Church Federation of Greater Indianapolis. As the organization prepares to celebrate its centennial in 2012, its executive director is Rev. Angelique Walker-Smith, the first African-American and the first woman to serve in the top post.


To share insights about the history of the church federation - which has evolved from being an exclusively white and Protestant organization to one that includes Catholics, blacks and an array of other ethnic groups - Angelique will join Nelson in studio.


So will Marion County historian David Vanderstel. He's helping put together a history of the church federation, which rather quickly became an advocate for civil rights. During the 1920s, the federation opposed the Ku Klux Klan and its sway over city and state officials. During the 1920s, the Church Federation opposed Ku Klux Klan activities in Indiana. Pictured here is a 1922 Klan parade in New Castle, Ind. Image courtesy Indiana Historical Society.The federation also inspired other church councils across the nation and helped fund the launch of Gleaners Food Bank of Indiana.


Among several events and projects marking its centennial in 2012, the church federation will partner with Habit for Humanity to build 10 homes in Indy. Other partners for the Habit for Humanity homes include Martindale-Brightwood Community Development.


The first home will be unveiled in June, which will be 100 years from the month when the 40 churches gathered in 1912. Back then, the congregations were alarmed at a decline in public morality that included "automobiles speed contests." A morals committee investigated the one-year-old Indianapolis 500, which just finished celebrating its own centennial era.


1904 picture of Roberts Park Methodist Church. Image courtesy Church Federation of Greater Indianapolis and Indiana Historical Society.According to the Encyclopedia of Indianapolis, the new inter-church organization was one of only about six church federations in the nation in 1912, so it served as a model for others across the country. Among the local congregations, early concerns focused on crime and the prevalence of saloons.


By the 1920s, though, the church federation was a vocal opponent of the KKK, which was peaking in power across the state. The federation objected to plans by Indianapolis city officials, including the mayor, to accept only applicants endorsed by the KKK for jobs in the department of public works. Also during the 1920s, white and black preachers had a pulpit exchange program.


During the 1940s, the Indy church federation fought racial discrimination at the U.S. Defense Department. Although generally advocating "peace and goodwill," the federation helped support chaplains for the military during World War II.


Over several decades, the federation also established chaplains at jails and hospitals in Indy. In addition, the organization helped recruit and supervise chaplains for what's now the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department, as well as chaplains at Indianapolis International Airport.


Angelique Walker-Smith.Eventually, Catholic parishes began joining the federation. So did Eastern Orthodox, Pentecostal and independent congregations.


The diversity will be reflected in several events marking the centennial during 2012. They will include a "Week of Prayer for Christian Unity" series Jan. 16-21. Speakers will include Rev. Boniface Hardin (who will share insights about the life of the late Cardinal Joseph E. Ritter) and former Mayor William Hudnut, who was a Presbyterian minister before entering political life.


David Vanderstel.Angelique Walker-Smith has been the church federation's executive director since 1995, the same year she became a volunteer chaplain at the Indiana Women's Prison. She is a graduate of Yale Divinity School and has lived in three African countries.


Since assuming the top post at the church federation, Angelique has initiated a prayer vigil ministry that has been nationally recognized. Clergy of many faiths join civic leaders in prayer at the sites of violent crimes in Indianapolis and at the homes of victims and their families.


David Vanderstel, our other guest, has several affiliations in addition to being Marion County's official historian. He also is the executive director of advancement at Martin University. And David was our studio guest on Hoosier History Live! in March for a show about the Irish in Indiana.


A soldiers parade on Monument Circle in Indianapolis shows, in the background, Christ Church Cathedral, a charter member of the Church Federation, which was active in welcoming soldiers back from World War I. Image courtesy Church Federation of Greater Indianapolis.Other facts:

  • Baby boomers and Gen Xers may recall Time for Timothy, a children's program produced by the church federation beginning in 1957. The series, which was broadcast on Channel 13, focused on a church mouse and often featured puppets interacting with live adults and children. Time for Timothy, which usually focused on Bible stories, stopped production in the early 1990s, although reruns continued several more years.
  • During school desegregation in Indianapolis in the 1970s and '80s, the church federation trained chaplains to help ease tensions. The federation supported busing to achieve integration.
  • Although the first of the 10 Habitat for Humanity houses will be unveiled in June, construction of the others will continue through next October. The 10 "centennial" houses will represent one for each decade of the church federation's history.


Roadtrip: Vintage film showing at Garfield Park


A Christmas Carol movie poster featuring Fredric March and Basil Rathbone.It doesn't get much better than Fredric March as Ebenezer Scrooge and Basil Rathbone as Jacob Marley. Our Roadtripper, Chris Gahl of the ICVA, tells us that the best heritage Roadtrip this week is the Vintage Film Night Series at Garfield Park Arts Center on the south side of Indianapolis.


If you're missing that "whirr" of the film projector (or even that "snap" of the film breaking!), head to Garfield Park this Saturday, Dec. 17, at 7 p.m. The series will present a rare 1954 television version of A Christmas Carol. Yes, it's a 1950s version of the classic play by Charles Dickens, complete with music by Alfred Hitchcock!


Additionally, expect some lively vintage holiday shorts to be presented that evening by your host, film historian Eric Grayson, and his trusty elf assistant, public historian Glory-June Greiff.


Tickets are only $3, and popcorn and other concessions are available. The Garfield Park Arts Center has plenty of free parking and is located at 2432 Conservatory Drive in Garfield Park. Yes, here's an opportunity to lose that "Bah humbug!" feeling, should you happen to be afflicted with it.


History Mystery


Along with several cities across the country, Indianapolis sometimes has been called "the City of Churches." Renaissance Hotel in Carmel, Ind.But another city in Indiana, one of the largest in the state, is associated even more frequently with that nickname.


For many generations, this city has been a regional hub for Lutherans, Catholics and Episcopalians. It also has a cluster of historic churches with tall steeples in its downtown. The city was the site of early organizational meetings for what became the Missouri Synod of the Lutheran Church.


Question: What is the Indiana city?


To win the prize, you must call in with the correct answer during the live show. Please do not call if you have won a prize from any WICR show during the last two months. The call-in number is (317) 788-3314, and please do not call until you hear Nelson pose the question on the air.


The prize is an overnight stay at the Renaissance Indianapolis North Hotel in Carmel, courtesy of the ICVA.


Your Hoosier History Live! team,


Nelson Price, host and creative director
Molly Head, producer, (317) 927-9101
Chris Gahl, Roadtripper
Richard Sullivan, webmaster and tech director


Pam Fraizer, graphic designer
Garry Chilluffo, creative consultant

Michele Goodrich, Jed Duvall, grant consultants




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Coming up

Returning on Dec. 31


On Christmas Eve, Hoosier History Live! will be pre-empted by special holiday programming on WICR-FM. Please join us Dec. 31 at 11:30 a.m., when our show will return.


Hoosier History Live! events

Our fourth anniversary!


Mark your calendar for the Hoosier History Live! 4th anniversary party on Thursday, Feb. 16 from 5 to 8 p.m. at Morris-Butler House. Again, courtesy of Indiana Landmarks.


Also ... the Irvington Library Hoosier History Live! Radio Club continues to be "a weekly thing." The listening group meets weekly in the Story Theater of the Irvington Library, 5625 E. Washington St., at 11:30 a.m. on Saturdays.


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