If you read the April 9 Gazette, you will have found a picture of the Ashley United Methodist Church on the front page, as well as a story about the bell being rung every day now at 6 p.m. Since this has been occurring, I have thought a lot about our church and what role it has played in my life.
It began in the year of 1957 when I moved to Ashley with my parents and siblings, and we lived in a house just down the street from the church. Within no time, two girls came to our house and asked if I wanted to come to their church and sing in the choir. I had sung in a church choir in Delaware, so was glad to get to be part of another one.
Several weeks later, while sitting in the choir loft, I saw a great looking guy out in the congregation. I asked the person next to me if she knew who he was. She said it was George Conklin, sitting with his parents and three younger brothers. Somehow, my sister found out I had asked about him, and she set us up for a double date with her and her boyfriend. So, the four of us went bowling together, and the rest is history.
George and I saw each other until he went to his six months in the Army Reserve. Then in 1958, when he got back, we got engaged and were married in that same church on Jan. 25, 1959, which happens to have been the same weekend as the big history-making flood in Delaware County. We have been married for all of the 61 years since.
In the time we have gone to church here, we have had a total of 20 different pastors (12 men and eight women). My getting to meet our first woman pastor happened in an unusual way for both of us. During a class I was taking at OWU in the early ‘80s, a newly ordained pastor came to speak. Before she finished her speech, she said she had been assigned to be the new pastor at the Ashley United Methodist Church. That sentence was such a shock to me, that I made the noise people make when they are shocked. Upon hearing that noise, she immediately stopped her speech, pointed to me, and said, “I need to see you after class!”
So, after class, she said she never dreamed that the class she was asked to speak in would have a person there from the church in Ashley where she had just been assigned. And, she told me that I could not tell anyone about her appointment until the conference officially announced their assignments. Needless to say, that was not an easy thing for me to do! Especially since in those days, having a woman pastor was still very unusual.
About 15 years ago, our church came to the point of not being able to keep a full-time pastor. Therefore, because we had no need of our parsonage, we sold it and used the money for improvements on the church building. We had a new roof put on, as well as having the brick work restored. Then, the next year, we had the inside of the sanctuary painted. Our having part-time pastors has worked out well, because most were still in school in Delaware at the Methodist Theological School, commonly known as “Methesco.” Our present pastor is from the Kilbourne Methodist Church and has now become the pastor of our church, as well. Her name is Pastor Elizabeth Ortiz (aka Beth).
As you read this, those seven different men are still taking their turns ringing our church bell at 6 p.m. every day. We plan to keep ringing it until the Sunday comes when we can open our doors again. At that time, we will have a real celebration because the spreading of the COVID-19 will be a thing of the past!
Kay E. Conklin is a retired Delaware County recorder who served four terms. She graduated from Ohio Wesleyan University with a degree in sociology and anthropology.