Our Church History
Onward Christian Church was originally known as the as the Pleasant Hill Church. The name was derived from its location atop Pleasant Hill on the farm of Jacob W. Brandt. Pleasant Hill is known today as Sullivan’s Hill, located two and one-half miles east of Onward on County Road 500 south just over the Miami County line.
For the first few years the congregation worshipped in the Rife Schoolhouse. The schoolhouse was a log structure located on the Jacob Rife farm one-half mile south of Pleasant Hill on the west side of the road. As the congregation outgrew the log schoolhouse, the need became apparent for a regular house of worship. In 1875, a new frame building was constructed at the top of Pleasant Hill on the north side of the road.
After worshipping in the Pleasant Hill Church for about twenty years, the congregation found they had many members from the Onward area. Transportation during this era was not easy. Horses, wagons and buggies were the methods used by most people. The members felt it would be more convenient to locate directly in the town of Onward. They began to look for a new church home. A United Brethren church located in Onward had disbanded due to lack of funds. The United Brethren church structure had once been located a mile south of Onward but the congregation decided to move the building itself into the Onward town limits. Following their disbandment they sold this building to the Pleasant Hill Christian congregation. This is the same building we occupy today. The first meeting of the Pleasant Hill Christian Church was February 8, 1866. The first meeting in Onward was August 8, 1887.
The original congregation was a member of the Disciples of Christ brotherhood. It was not until May 19, 1966 that the Onward Christian members voted to have their church name deleted from the Disciples of Christ registry. After this vote, Onward Christian Church became know as an Independent Christian Church.
Many changes have taken place over the years. As the congregation continued to grow, the building was remodeled several times. Just days before the Wall Street crash they decided to add classrooms to the south and a porch entrance to the northwest side. The work completed in 1932.
Realizing the need for a social meeting place with dining facilities, the congregation acquired an abandoned building on the edge of Onward. This was know as the Macabee Lodge Hall and later called the White Hall. The building was one block south of the church and afforded opportunities for church suppers and other social gatherings.
The next major remodeling project began in 1946 following World War II. The congregation decided to dig a basement under the present church side to allow space for social gatherings. In addition to the large dining area, it included the well-equipped kitchen and several classrooms. The entrance of the building was placed on the north and the pulpit was moved to the south, just as it is today. After this remodeling, the meeting hall was sold at public auction on March 11, 1947.
1957 saw another church addition underway. An east wing was added to the church to make room for more classrooms, a baptistery and two restrooms. The basement was also enlarged. The dedication for the new east wings was held on February 8, 1958, exactly ninety-two years after the founding of Onward Christian Church.
1966 was a celebration year for the people of Onward Christian Church. It marked the one hundred year anniversary since the founding and organization of Pleasant Hill (later called Onward Christian) Church. The centennial celebration was held July 29, 30, and 31, 1966.
The church building underwent another remodeling in 1974. This time the expansion was to the west. The sanctuary was enlarged to accommodate over 200 people. A fellowship hall, which included a restroom, kitchen and church office, was added adjacent to the sanctuary. The addition of air-conditioning completed the project.
In 2007 the church remodeled the sanctuary changing the configuration of the front by putting in a new baptistery and adding a new sound and video projection system.
Although many changes and additions have occurred, steps were never taken to make the basement handicap accessible. Because there was a great need to make the building accessible to all, the leadership of the church began to look at different possibilities for addressing the need and decided that adding an addition containing a large fellowship area, wheelchair ramp, new kitchen, classroom and office was the best approach. Work began on the addition in October of 2009, and the church was ready to begin using the facility for Easter of 2010.
For 150 years the Onward Christian Church has stood as a monument of noble living and sacrifice, proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ to all whom would hear. The lives of countless men and women have been influenced and molded by her teaching and example. During the past 150 years, the needs of the church have been constantly changing. The members of Onward Christian were always ready to meet those with their tools, time and talents. Through history we see our future.