Wedding tied to historic sitePublished 9:45am Wednesday, July 29, 2009
NILES – On July 18, approximately 100 guests witnessed the first wedding in more than 90 years in The Original Old Rugged Cross (ORC) Church in Pokagon.
The church where the hymn “The Old Rugged Cross” was first sung publicly in its entirety in 1913 was the only wedding venue Scott Bostwick of Elkhart, Ind., and Anne Wadzinski of Edwardsburg, seriously considered, even though the historic structure is far from fully restored.
For some time before the two met in 2006 (while working at Concord Southside School in Elkhart), Anne’s grandmother, Betty Bralick, of Edwardsburg, eagerly followed news about the restoration of the historic church to its 1913 appearance. Mrs. Bralick frequently mentioned to Anne how much she enjoyed visiting the restoration site, and that “she couldn’t explain it, but that church just has a place in her heart,” Anne said.
Her grandmother’s interest in the restoration was not particularly striking to Anne. “It was in the back of my mind,” Anne said, “but I really didn’t know anything about it.”
When Anne met Scott and they became friends, at first through accidental and then rather cleverly contrived encounters at work, Scott had recently learned from his Grandmother Bostwick (Thelma Bostwick, of Elkhart) that the pastor at the then First Methodist Episcopal Church of Pokagon during the 1913 hymn debut was Scott’s great, great uncle, Rev. Leroy Bostwick.
“When I met Scott, and later learned that his family had something to do with the ORC Church, it was justoh, this is too weird,” Anne laughed. “Had Grandma not been talking about it, Scott could have told me about his family’s connection to this church, and it would not have meant anything to me.” They also realized Scott’s daughter had been a student in one of Anne’s classes.
Scott, 39, works in the Concord Community Schools maintenance department, in the Dunlap, Ind., area. Anne, 37, teaches at St. Pius X Catholic School in Granger, Ind. They now reside in Elkhart.
Their mutual interest in geology helped their friendship develop, as did Scott’s somewhat desperate 2008 plea for help in finding matching shoes for his daughter’s Easter outfit. This was “the shoe incident,” Scott fondly recalls. “I’m a guy,” he says. “I don’t match things very well like that.”
Anne, with her young daughter, helped Scott and his daughter find just the right footwear. That “pre-date” (a term coined by Anne’s friends) ended with the couple arm wrestling over the lunch check. “I lost,” Anne said.
Unknown to them at the time, a mutual friend aided their early friendship. Anne talked with this friend about Scott, not knowing the friend was nearly “Scott’s second mother,” which now causes them both to laugh. The friend encouraged both without giving away much to either. “She was collecting evidence,” Anne chuckles.
“Once I knew about our family’s connection to the ORC church, and then met Anne, when we decided to get married, I just had this feeling that that church would be the perfect place,” Scott said. “It’s part of our history, our legacy.”
“What I wanted was some place that was meaningful to us,” Anne said. “Because the Old Rugged Cross Church means something to my Grandma, and it means something to the Bostwicks, and I was going to become a Bostwick, I thought, let’s ask if we can do this.
“When we became engaged,” she added, “we had not yet chosen our current church, Grace Community Church, in Goshen, Ind. Now, we love it there. It’s a very good fit for us.”
Another surprise awaited as the couple discussed who would perform their wedding ceremony.
“We had talked about asking a particular friend, but then Grandma Bostwick mentioned that my Dad’s cousin had performed my Mom and Dad’s wedding, in 1966. I didn’t know that.” Scott said. “I thought it would be cool to have him do that for us, too. He did not hesitate in saying ‘Yes.’”
Therefore, Rev. Darwin Bostwick, pastor of the Church of God of Prophecy in Elizabethtown, Ky., performed the July 18 Pokagon ceremony. He is a great nephew of Rev. Leroy Bostwick, the 1913 Pokagon pastor, as is Scott Bostwick’s father.
Scott was attended by his 16-year-old son, Todd, and by his brother, Dan, of Grand Rapids, Mich. One of her sisters, Mary Wendzonka, of Goshen, and Scott’s 11-year-old daughter, Morgan, attended Anne. Anne’s five-year-old daughter, Ruthie, was the “Flower Fairy.”
Anne was not discouraged by the historic church’s “rough” interior when she first saw it. At that point, there was no ceiling, and the original horse hair plaster walls had many broken and missing areas. Vandals had smeared grease and black paint on the walls.
The upcoming wedding date provided an extra incentive for contractors and volunteers to complete as much work as possible, quickly. By the wedding day, the sanctuary’s ceiling and walls were in place. Their clean white expanses created a peaceful environment.
“It just seemed so meaningful and so touching, to be married there,” Anne said.
Her only “regret?” “I’ll be the only Bostwick who does not have blue eyes,” she laughed. “They all have blue eyes. Every single one of them. I’ll be the first brown-eyed Bostwick.”
“The Old Rugged Cross Foundation (ORCF) has conducted some of our own events in the partially restored church,” said Bob Shaffer, ORCF president. “When Anne and Scott asked about being married there, we wanted to help them realize that dream. It is a great joy to have members of The Old Rugged Cross ‘family’ start their new lives together in this place that means so much to all of us. For our first wedding to be a Bostwick wedding had to have been orchestrated by God.”
The Original Old Rugged Cross Church was built as a hops barn in the 1860s. It had other uses before being remodeled into the First Methodist Episcopal Church of Pokagon in the 1870s. The congregation sold the building in 1915, shortly after the hymn’s debut.
They moved across the street to what is now the Pokagon United Methodist Church.
The historic building fell into disrepair. It was near collapse when purchased for restoration in 1998. The non-profit ORCF manages the restoration, and plans to open the restored building as a museum and a place for special services, weddings and funerals.
Now called The Original Old Rugged Cross Church, the facility is a Registered Michigan Historic Site, is on the National Register of Historic Places, and is an Official Project of Save America’s Treasures. The Old Rugged Cross Historic Site includes the half-acre “church without walls,” The Old Rugged Cross Memorial Garden. The church sanctuary and garden are wheelchair accessible.
The Old Rugged Cross Historic Site is one block south of Pokagon Highway, just east of Highway M-51 in Pokagon.
Information about the Old Rugged Cross Historic Site is available by calling 269-683-4540, or on the Internet at www.the-oldruggedcross.org, or from the Old Rugged Cross Foundation, PO Box 41, Niles, MI 49120.